Editorial: Alternate routes aren’t alternatives anymore
As the holiday approaches, several of our local motorists will be hitting the highways to travel to various destinations. Drivers will be planning ahead in an effort to miss as much traffic as possible. Unfortunately, those behind the wheel are coming to the realization that no matter how much planning you can do, roads will be occupied more than ever before. And we can blame technology for that.
In the past, interstates have been the primary method of travel for motorists to get from one destination to the next. When an accident or a disabled vehicle often slowed traffic down, motorists would wait on the highway to make sure they don’t’ stray too far from the path. When physical paper maps were created, a second person assumed the role as the navigator, plotting a course on how to return to the main highway after the driver elects to leave the interstate.
But as technology evolved, the introduction of GPS (global positioning system) has integrated into drivers lives. At first, handheld maps disappeared in favor for a computer system that can speak to drivers and guide them along the route. The system provided travel time and the most direct route.
Options began developing as GPS became more and more used by motorists. Options included ignoring roads that had tolls on it and main highways. The most significant changes began with technology updates on both GPS and phones. Now, when a slowdown on a major interstate occurs, the navigation system used by drivers will immediately notify the motorist and ask if they prefer to forego the current route for a faster pathway. And with that, comes the point of this editorial.
New Kent locals have been the recipients of many of these drawbacks over the past several years. Once Interstate 64 encounters a major backup, those vehicles traveling on that road are quick to divert onto Route 60 (Pocahontas Trail) or Route 249 (New Kent Highway). Those roads become congested quickly as vehicles turning to exit Interstate 64 onto these secondary roads tend to hold up traffic, even to locals.
Unfortunately, there have been several times when I attempted to get to the Chronicle office and noticed Interstate 64 congested before I got on the exit ramp. Instead, I elected to take a back road and unfortunately, encountered a long line of vehicles. This made a trip that’s normally 25 minutes last nearly an hour. And the thing that gets me the most is that once motorists see that Interstate 64 sign from one of the secondary highways, they quickly make a turn and return to the thoroughfare only to get stuck again.
Simply put, we’ve reached a point where extra planning is needed for simple trips, even to the local store. What was once considered an accessible road by a few vehicles have become overwhelmed with motorists trying to get to their destination in a hurry. There aren’t going to be any major changes as technology will soon start to guide vehicles from secondary highways to local county roads. If you want an adequate comparison, think of bike rides and races in local counties taking up all lanes instead of one side.
So, as you travel to your destination this holiday season, be safe and be prepared. Planning additional time will help, but patience will be the key factor as you travel the roads. Have safe travels and a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!