Prediction: Highway 40 Shutdown Not So Bad — At First

To watch the local news and read the newspaper, one might be forgiven for thinking that Armageddon is at St. Louis’ doorstep. Using the verb “survive” to describe a commute could be a bit of poetic license. That’s why I’m going to buck the trend and make the prediction that the Highway 40 shutdown will not be all that bad… at least at first.

Sure, you may wait an extra cycle at a light, and if your previous commute was straight down Highway 40, it will take longer. But initially, at least, you won’t see gridlock nor will 20 minute commutes turn into 2 hours. Why? Quite simple. The media has scared the daylights out of anyone who is not required by their job or the law to travel in the vicinity of Highway 40. The fashionable New Year’s resolutions are to cancel any discretionary trips near West County.

Forgive the diversion, but this reminds me of a story. Back in 1993, I was starting a new semester at college and was watching the local St. Louis news with a foreign exchange student who’d just arrived in the U.S. from Germany the day before. The lead story on the news was that Highway 40 in the Chesterfield Valley was re-opened after the floods had receded. What was this student’s reaction to this clearly earth shattering news for the St. Louis driving-obsessed public? Laughter. She simply couldn’t understand how a road’s status could be a lead news story. I guess she could be forgiven, though, since she came from a country with an actual functioning nationwide mass transit system.

Back to today’s Highway 40 obsession. Yes, you could get up at 4:30 AM tomorrow and watch the “Special Report” on Highway 40 on your favorite local news station. Not that there can be anything useful to say at 4:30 in the morning, other than it’s dark, cold, and, yes, Highway 40 is closed. But it will continue to feed the frenzy and keep people away from the roads.

I can’t say how long this hysteria will last — at least until the next local celebrity is caught drinking and driving. Eventually the media frenzy will die off and word will get out that the roads aren’t so bad. Since those discretionary trips can’t be postponed forever, the drivers will return and venture out again. When that happens, my previous predictions will come true — some key chokepoints will cause headaches for many a driver in 2008.

In the meantime, enjoy your drive.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 1st, 2008 at 9:56 pm and is filed under Predictions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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