Friday, September 02, 2005

109 minutes

I was frazzled by the time I got home last night. Class ended at 9:15 p.m., exactly as scheduled. I had moved my car to the parking garage before class started so I packed up my laptop, grabbed my stuff and split rather quickly. Within 9 minutes I was waiting at the light to turn to the main road that heads to I-35. Time was 9:24.

Unfortunately it was 11:13 by the time I pulled into my driveway -- 109 minute drive. Normally it takes about an hour to get from my house to school -- it's about 48 miles. Of course that's midday traffic. I don't even want to try to go during rush hour. Last year when I had to be on campus for a 9 a.m. class, would leave the house at 5:30 a.m. to beat the traffic and workout at the campus rec center. That time of day the drive only took 45 minutes.

But last night, and every night since school started, there has been construction and this year there is so much more construction than last year. I got on I-35 at mile marker 206 and by the time I got off at mile marker 248, I drove through three construction zones. Since most of the zones were about 2-3 miles long, that means all total there was 9 out of 42 miles of construction. That shouldn't be a big deal, right? Wrong!

During these zones the interstate goes from 3 lanes to 1 lane. And it's not the 1 lane that's a problem -- the traffic actually moves -- the issue is getting the traffic to merge. This is a harrowing experience. At times you know you could walk faster than you could drive. In fact, at times you are just parked. At this one point I had two 18-wheelers in front of me. One was in the left lane, one in the right and I was in the middle. Since this was a new construction zone (unlike the one in Kyle that has been there every night in the last two weeks), I didn't know if this zone went down to one or two lanes. So I'm sitting here behind these two trucks, but couldn't drive between them as they were both partially in the middle lane (only a mini-Cooper could have driven through). But I could see between these trucks and neither had any traffic in front of them. So we are going 5 miles an hour, being blocked by these trucks. Finally one 18-wheeler moves in front of the other, the interstate goes down to 1 lane and we get moving.

There were probably about 15 miles between the various construction zones, so you could make decent time for 10 minutes and then be at a virtual standstill for 25 minutes. It was so frustrating, especially because after 10 p.m. I just wanted to be home, having dinner and getting ready for bed. I swear it would have been better if they had just kept that entire stretch of highway to one lane, at least we would have kept moving. Since the last construction zone ended at my exit, I was pretty stressed out by the time I got home (not to mention the fourth construction zone I went through -- they are expanding the road to my house, but at least this one doesn't stop traffic).

Of course it takes at least an hour to wind down, so I don't get to bed until after midnight. Unfortunately there are not alternative roads -- if you want to drive from San Marcos to Pflugerville, you have to drive I-35, aka "The Highway of Death." The only bright spot is that I only have to drive through the construction two nights a week (the other two days I drive home through rush hour, but it's not as bad as the construction). Luckily I can sleep in mornings after the drive. Since Monday is Labor Day, I don't have to deal with the construction traffic again until next Thursday. Maybe it will get better. If not, maybe I can get a prescription for Prozac.

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