ROSE NOLEN: America in need of transportation overhaul

Tuesday, December 21, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 3:15 p.m. CST, Tuesday, December 20, 2011

As readers of this column know, I absolutely detest having to travel on Interstate 70. I think of the Interstate Highway System as a means of population control. I shudder when I even think about the number and kinds of injuries and deaths caused by the  war constantly waged between 18-wheelers and small sedans delivering families from one location to another. I don't know what could be done to halt the current carnage on the nation's highways.

I was involved in an incident last week that brought the situation to mind again. It was the kind of thing that happens all the time during deer season. Most of us instinctively try to dodge objects in the lane in which we are driving. It takes a lot of guts to drive headlong into the deer, or whatever object is in our way. Our natural instincts are to try to avoid a collision. But we read over and over, every year the number of times people wind up injured from swerving off the highway, plowing into another car, or getting rammed into, in an effort to avoid hurting the deer.

Fortunately, no animal was involved in our incident. A huge wheel had been left in the middle of our lane. To her credit, my friend, observing that cars were traveling all around us took a chance and drove straight into the wheel. No one was therefore injured, but the front end of her new car sustained $1,500 worth of damage. While we remained intact we worried about the other drivers who would have to face the same situation. Seeking to find a solution to this dilemma, I called the Missouri State Highway Patrol Office for advice. They gave me their emergency assistance number of *55 in case I encountered such a situation again.

As grateful as I was for this information, in the back of my head I knew there are not enough emergency telephone numbers or enough Highway Patrol Officers in the world to make us safe, traveling on these highways. There are entirely too many opportunities for bad things to happen where human beings are involved. Are we lucky not to have more accidents happen? No, I don't call that luck, I call that undeserved consequences for our ridiculous belief in our own immortality and our failure to use our technological superiority to our best advantage.

I don't kid myself that anyone will run out and begin a mass transit system. I just know that it is irresponsible for people like me when we see dangers that could be disarmed, not to advocate for disarming. Will anyone listen? Probably not, but that isn't the point is it? It's out there and someday, somebody will listen and act.

We Missourians are proud to be in the Show-Me State. I believe when we have seen enough, spent enough and suffered enough we will come to the conclusion that freight and passengers do not make good traveling companions. The railroads found that out, but history has a way of repeating itself. And because we do not learn from history we must waste time discarding ideas and rescuing them in every generation. It seems to be the nature of the beast. I'm probably in the minority on this issue, because we are said to be in love with our cars and will not give them up under any circumstances. But, every year more teenagers reach the driving age and more cars are on the road. I think at some time we are going to reach the point where it is no longer reasonable for us to continue the practice of each individual using his or her own transportation to get from place to place.

Also, the cost of maintaining our highways and having to continually widen them year after year takes a lot of taxpayer dollars. Transporting all this freight on the roads means that they are in constant need of repair. When these heavy-duty trucks have to use city streets to deliver their goods, small towns and cities are forced to pay for repairing their streets on an annual basis.

Although we Americans constantly bemoan our dependence on foreign oil we nevertheless insist on driving of our own cars near and far instead of designing a system of transportation that would be less costly and more energy efficient.

In any case, if your family is traveling this holiday season please drive safely, and when the New Year rolls around ask yourself if this is really the best way to go? And by all means have a joyous, wonderful and blessed Christmas from my house to yours.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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Ellis Smith December 21, 2010 | 11:51 a.m.

Concerned about a collision with a deer, Rose? You're aware I assume that some nice folks are going to release a herd of elk in southern Missouri.

According to information recently published in the Missourian, a collision between a deer and a sedan causes slightly over $3,000 in repairs to the sedan. With few exceptions most occupants of sedans that collide with a deer are not killed or disabled as a result of the collision.

That won't be the case with elk, as experience with collisions involving elk in the western United States has shown.

So cheer up, Rose, things can only get worse!

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 21, 2010 | 12:49 p.m.

Ellis, I don't know that I've ever seen a cheerful column from Rose, but then I usually can't make it through them either.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 21, 2010 | 2:46 p.m.

@ John (and Rose):

I was very despondent, but my friends gathered around me and they all said, "Cheer up, things could be worse."

So I took their advice, and cheered up; sure enough, things got worse!

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 21, 2010 | 3:07 p.m.

So I took their advice, and cheered up; sure enough, things got worse!

I blew cola all over my screen with that one. Good stuff!

It's too bad that rail transport of goods will never again be what it was. In these days of just-in-time inventories, trains just can't keep up. With trains, you have to load the boxcar, then wait for a train to come through and hook up. Then, there will be the inevitable "sidings" and hook/unhook to get the boxcar going in the right direction and, after a week-or-more, the boxcar arrives.

OR, you can load a hired truck (or your own) from your own loading dock, and the truck is 700 miles away by the next day. From Chicago at 5 pm, it's in Columbia the next morning!

It's no contest at all. Even high-speed transport rail doesn't help still have to wait for a train, and you still have to eventually get it on the destination track.

No one wants to hold on to inventory any more time than necessary.....costs too much.

I don't have a solution except being willing (as a nation) to pay more for goods.

PS: Rose is a great, thoughtful writer. But I agree that her columns are usually not on the bright side. Maybe she'll have a Happy Christmas or whatever and write about it!

(Report Comment)

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