The Donkey Is Sleeping Today

The Unpaving of America

In Deficit Reduction, Economics, Infrastructure, Politics on August 11, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Let’s face it. Paved roads are cool. One doesn’t appreciate the smooth roll of rubber on tar until one has been off the beaten path where a paved road is but a luxury. Take Costa Rica. My wife, daughter and I fell in love with the Central American Switzerland a year and a half ago when we stumbled upon a sleepy beach town of fewer than 200 souls smack on the sand in the Guanacaste region (think Baja) of this beautiful country.

The only challenge in this sun-drenched slice of heaven is how difficult (read: painful) it is to get around. Suffice to say when you arrive at the rental car stand you have two choices:  4-wheel drive or hoof it. As you get within an hour of Playa Negra the roads are, well, challenging. In the rainy season they’re virtually impassable. Residents often hole up or leave in September and October because it’s like god left the sprinkler running and skipped town.

Here’s one of the roads we failed to tackle on our way to a day at the beach:

Fortunately, with the assistance of a dozen helpful Ticos we were hauled out of this jam… two hours later.

When we were visiting Playa Negra the first time, the town was abuzz because one of the biggest happenings in this small town’s history was happening that week. The new Presidente had made a pledge to pave the roads and make Guanacaste more accessible to boost tourism and travel in this stunning section of their country, and we were there to see it happen! During our week-long stay we literally saw the workers grate and pave the main road which originated in San Jose and now, meter by meter, was connecting Playa Negra to the capital and to it’s neighbors to the north.

I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal to you and me, but it’s huge. On our last visit earlier this year, the proprietors of the restaurant and bungalos where we stayed spoke of the remarkable business they were doing at their restaurant from people who could actually make the trip in less than an hour and not slip a disc in the process.

In America today we’re doing the opposite. We are unpaving roads. You heard me right. We are UNpaving roads. In the great states of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Alabama, North Dakota and South Dakota roads are literally being unpaved and turned back into the gravel roads our great grandparents would have traveled back in the day when “I can’t drive fifty-five” wasn’t the title of a Sammy Hagar song — it was the limit of the internal combustion engine.

And it’s not just roads that are being downgraded. So is fire prevention, education and light. They’re literally turning the lights out in Georgia and removing streetlights in Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts and California. They’ve started rolling blackouts of fire stations in Pennsylvania. And Hawaii is furloughing it’s schoolchildren by closing schools 17 Fridays this year.

How can this be happening in America? Two reasons I can think of. First, because of the very real shortfalls in local and state governments which has trickled down from the federal government’s lavish Bush tax cuts and foreign wars for oil. Second, because of the ginned up false fears from the right that government spending in all instances is bad. That government stimulus is Socialism. And that a government which creates jobs for its citizens is Fascist.

Would I rather live in Costa Rica than the United States? Probably not, even though the quality of life in Costa Rica is, in my opinion, superior in ways that are difficult to measure. But would I have ever thought that the roads would be better in Playa Negra than in parts of California? Not in a million years.

–       SH

H/T to Rachel’s eye-opening segment which is here:

  1. Thanks for link to this post at TP. I live in a rural area in PA and there are several unpaved roads in the area. The residents like it that way because it keeps the traffic down.

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