Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hug a Highway Today

Do you ever stop to think about the roads you drive on? I mean, really think about them?

If so, I'm the one in the car behind you, honking.

I've spent the last several days at work studying highway construction plans, from which part of my job is to extract data for the statewide roads database. And I'm here to tell you, by golly, a fair bit of planning goes into road-building. I never really thought about it before. I mean, I could figure that bridges, overpasses, etc. take some fairly serious engineering, but I guess deep down I just assumed that road crews sort of randomly showed up and paved a promising-looking stretch of landscape between two points.

Not so, although I think anyone who's had to deal with Austin traffic in a construction zone can be forgiven for having that impression.

These things are laid out to the inch (or centimeter, depending on the date and the contracted civil engineering firm). It's all there: specs for lane and roadbed width, baseline bearings, points of curvature and of tangent, pavement depth, composition and strata, signage, traffic signals, medians and curbs, landscaping, drainage, striping, and so on and so on and so on and so on and so on. It makes sense, of course, that it would be so. People like me, whose idea of construction is to schlep something together and hope it comes out right (which it doesn't always - like the time I made my baby son a gown for Renaissance Festival and forgot to leave holes for his arms) are amazed, and frankly a little turned off, by such a level of detailed planning. Doesn't leave a lot of room for hope or excitement or happy surprises, does it?

It's probably for the best that I never went into engineering.


At March 08, 2006 12:10 PM, Blogger Bill D said...

No, I think we need more surprises and uncertainty.

Like an action film.


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