I’m eight years old sitting in the back seat of the car trying to hold my breath and coming dangerously close to passing out. We are driving by a cemetery, and childhood superstitions die hard. My biggest fear when passing that cemetery was that traffic would back up, which it inevitably did as the ongoing construction along Miami’s Palmetto Expressway (SR 826) spread like cancer.
I was born and raised in Miami, and getting from point A to point B usually involved traveling the Palmetto. I became very familiar with all the landmarks along the way, including the huge cemetery that always forced me to turn blue as I attempted to hold my breath as we passed it by. That construction I mentioned started in the 1970s and continues today. I kid you not.
And that leads me to the real purpose of this post. Lifelong highway construction projects…where’s the forethought?
Back in 1989, a friend from Miami moved north to the next county. She gave me directions to her new apartment, which required me to travel a highway I’d never heard of in South Florida. It was called I-75 and led to another strange highway called the Sawgrass Expressway (SR 879). As I traveled the empty 10-lane highway whose exit and entrance ramps were clover leaves large enough to encircle a European village, I wondered what morons had put so much money into a highway when there were no towns as far as the eye could see. What a frickin waste of money.
Fast forward 20 years. I now travel I-75 more frequently than I traveled the Palmetto as I followed the herd 13 years ago and became a resident of one of the many new towns that sprang to life in the late 1980s, blossomed after 1992’s Hurricane Andrew ravished southern Miami-Dade county, and grew into a 70,000-person city. And still, there has been no construction, apart from some minimally-invasive road resurfacing.
Because those morons I referred to earlier were actually brilliant city planners with enough foresight and gumption to build these new highways THE RIGHT WAY. I mean, there’s no way they could have predicted the exodus that Hurricane Andrew would cause, so these morons were rather visionary when they found the chutzpah to fund this highway. The speed limit is 70mph, faster than anywhere else in the tri-county area, and even during rush hour, traffic moves through wide-enough lanes that seem to cry out, Drive me and be free.
I still drive down to Miami frequently to visit family and friends, as I did yesterday. And every time I do, as I sit idle on the Palmetto Expressway so close to the cars next to me that I can reach over and change their radio stations if I don’t like them (which I’d do if I weren’t afraid of getting shot), I turn to my husband and say for the umpteenth time, “We are never moving back to Miami.”
It is only when my nostalgia for childhood sets in that I miss the days of holding my breath until the verge of almost passing out. Otherwise, I am a fool for wide open spaces when it comes to highways. If I want to be trapped to the point of immobility among a throng of strangers, I go to New York City – my favorite place in this country and definite fodder for a future post as I’ll be visiting the Big Apple very soon.
So drive safely and join me in my cheers of support for those signs that say END CONSTRUCTION. I’m all for it.