Friday, March 24, 2017

Filling Up The Keys

There has been a growing sense of unease in the Keys that traffic is getting out of hand. There have been loud protests in the newspaper and in conversations about continued efforts to attract yet more visitors to the Keys using assorted tax monies. The argument is that money should be spent on infrastructure especially housing for actual workers. 
 It is expected this winter that you will be severely delayed on the final bridge to enter Key West. Cow Key Bridge is usually the scene of a twenty minute delay as traffic piles up on Stock Island and the lines at the Triangle on Key West move slower and slower.
This newspaper headline is rather pitiful as the "action" taken by Monroe County is yet one more traffic study to consider what might be done. It seems that there is consideration being given to increase public transit including more discussion of a rail line through the Keys. As lovely as that idea may be it seems like a total non starter in a state with no affinity for public works whatsoever.
There are two big sore spots outside of the Triangle in Key West. Islamorada is always jammed up on weekends and they only have themselves to blame as they are constantly holding special events in the "village of islands" as they call their city. The other problem hot spot is the traffic light in Big Pine half way between Marathon and Key West.  This light can back traffic up for five miles and forces people like me to take to the secret back roads where even if I drive slowly in dirt I am not sitting helpless in a  long line of cars. I may not get there faster but it is more fun to make tracks through the neighborhoods.
Of course there is roadwork and  as the highway is the only road maintenance on bridges on the roadway or on utilities can slow traffic down terribly. 
This was Bahia Honda on Wednesday, a long back up to get into the State Par. Air temperature of 83 degrees and water temperature of 75 doesn't add up to swimming conditions for me but I'm fussy. I like 80/80/80 which is 80 air temperature, 80 water temperature and 80 percent humidity. Wait long enough and we'll get it.
On this vexing subject of impacted traffic I don't have much to say other than paying attention and being focused on making progress would be a good thing. From my observation the slow down entering Key West is largely attributable to lamentable driving habits. Drivers don't know how to cope with the green arrow lane, pausing and waiting instead of smoothly entering their dedicated lane. I see cars stalled in the line while drivers madly text and this habit encourages scofflaws to approaching the left lane and take cuts to get to the head of the line. Aside from being bad mannered this habit creates further slowing as traffic nudges to find its way forward. I don't see any room for more lanes and without clearer signage encouraging traffic to move the lines won't go away.
I know it's counter intuitive but in my opinion we should have higher speed limits and more passing zones. It's soporific driving in long lines at 40 miles an hour while "island time" vacationers take in the views. There is a driving culture in this country that hates being passed (especially by a hairy old hobbit on a moped- they see me coming in their mirrors and they flee in terror that my Vespa will emasculate them by passing them),  but on Highway One, too much of the roadway is designed to prevent passing so the slow poke cock blockers slow down secure in the knowledge their bad driving will leave them at the front of the line of slow moving bored drivers. Throw in a few more passing spaces and the boy racers in the Subarus will keep the slow pokes on their toes!
The sad truth is too many workers can't find affordable housing in Key West so the commuting lines are far longer than they have ever been. I enjoy living out of town on Cudjoe Key but for a lot of people a forty five minute drive to work from Big Pine Key is a penance for not being wealthy. Add to their driving times a lot of visitors and winter traffic will be slow. Nothing is going to change. There are more hotels being built, and worker housing is being planned all along Highway One so the number of commuters is bound to increase. They can study all they want, but until greed gives way to common sense and some leader shows up with a livable vision for the Lower Keys, nothing can change.
There are no frost heaves down here but there are lots of very heavy trucks every morning starting before dawn and continuing all day that pound the road and the bridges into submission. It is just money that needs to be spent to maintain this tropical paradise illusion to keep everyone coming. And spend it they will, even if this infrastructure chokes us all.