Traffic is a detriment to life in any big cityPublished 10:39am Thursday, March 6, 2014
By Joel Myhre, Guest Column
When listing the advantages of living in an outstate Minnesota community such as Fergus Falls over the Twin Cities, things like access to lakes and less crime are often among the first to be rattled off.
In my view, however, traffic needs to top the list.
For one thing, crime isn’t an issue for every resident of the Twin Cities. Yes, I have had relatives who live in the Twin Cities who have had their homes and cars broken into. And no one from the Twin Cities would ever consider things like leaving one’s home unlocked, or even better, leaving one’s car unlocked and having the keys sitting in it in between the front seats. That kind of thing happens all the time around here, because usually there are not consequences for doing so.
But crime typically isn’t a day-to-day thing. Traffic is.
Yes, there are certainly some traffic irritations when it comes to Fergus Falls, as follows: There are drivers who tend to drive 20 to 23 miles per hour, not because there’s someone in front of them but because they choose to drive that slow.
No offense to Otter Tail Valley Railroad crews — I know they are just doing their job loading and unloading coal — but trains stopped in the middle of the tracks in the middle of the day, forcing a line of cars around Lake Alice to the Union Avenue bridge, is clearly annoying.
Lincoln Avenue still gets backed up between downtown and the west retail area, a problem that apparently wasn’t fixed by the Tower Road bridge.
But let’s be honest here. These traffic irritations are rookie ball compared to the major-league traffic that exists in the Twin Cities. My “commute” to work, and I live on the north side of town and work on the south side, is seven minutes, maybe 10 if all the stars aren’t in alignment.
I know there are many who commute longer distances to work around here, but traffic delays usually aren’t part of the drive.
In the Twin Cities, traffic delays can be up to an hour. I know, because I was caught in two of them on the same day.
Give or take a few minutes, it takes about two hours and 45 minutes to get from Fergus Falls to the west side of the Twin Cities. It takes that long, that is, if everything goes perfectly; if you arrive at the precipice of the traffic — maybe the Monticello area — when it isn’t rush hour, and if there are no accidents, poor road conditions or construction work.
On Tuesday, on a work trip to the Twin Cities, I basically took my time in the morning, leaving at 6:30 a.m., figuring I’d get to downtown Minneapolis in my standard time period, and arrive at my meeting well before 9:30 a.m.
Not so fast, hombre. First, I spotted signs that point out the time to certain intersections were saying 25 to 30 minutes, when it typically would take five minutes to get there. Then, I heard the traffic reports on the radio; backup on Interstate 94 due to an accident. And then, of course, the backup ensues, where the car in front of me slows to turtle speed. At least twice, I was at rest, parked in the middle of Interstate 94.
I tried to get cute, taking an alternate route. It didn’t work. I wasn’t the only one with that idea. The traffic was just as bad, and it wasn’t as direct a route.
When all was said and done, I was 25 minutes late for my meeting that I should have been 15 minutes early for, resulting in a delay of almost 45 minutes. I sounded like one of those dishonest employee types when I arrived. “Traffic was awful,” I said.
To top off my trip, there was another accident at about 4 p.m., which meant my boss’s plan to get our meeting done early enough to avoid the traffic went for naught. It was another 25-minute delay before seeing a clear stretch of road.
Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of fun things about the Twin Cities. I enjoy the professional sports, the abundance of radio stations, the cool restaurants and shopping experiences, and the wide variety of other activities.
But one has to wonder, is all of this worth sitting in the car for a couple of hours everyday? In addition, as a person who has a hard time dealing with negative setbacks I can’t control, am I really built to handle traffic delays?
Think about that the next time you’re having a lovely weekend in the Twin Cities.
Joel Myhre is the publisher of the Fergus Falls Daily Journal.