If all goes to plan, an 8-year-old in Sparta, N.J. today might be able to take one of their newly adult (over 18) drives through a finally uncluttered intersection at Routes 15 and 80 by 2032.
That’s when, according to state transportation plans, the work to unspaghetti the collection of confusing and overused ramps and turns that connect the main road from Northwest NJ and the Lake Hopatcong region to the interstate highway might be completed.
A decade to complete the work, but in truth they have been planning and talking about the repairs for thirty years, during which the population of the lake region grew from a few thousand a century ago to a couple hundred thousand today.
The construction plan shows how complicated the work to redesign the intersection actually is, and more important how the lack of consistent transportation funding has left Americans across the country stuck in traffic at similar intersections.
reIn New Jersey where I live and have been a newspaper reporter for three decades, there are dozens of Route15/80 intersections that need to be fixed. And rail lines and tunnels and broken local streets and parks and trails…you get the idea.
And it’s not just roads and bridges.
There are people living in the woods in tents, or in major cities in tent cities that generate disgust but little action toward solutions because we somehow expect people down on their luck to be more perfect than we are.
Senior citizens and children go hungry every day.
Workers take lunch at soup kitchens because they are not paid enough to survive.
Families delay needed medical care because they can’t afford it and struggle to find care givers for their children while thewy work.
And the list goes on.
I have many friends in the social service and non-profit community who daily push the rock up hill to provide services for the unserved.
And as important and sometimes heroic as those efforts are, they will be pushing that rock uphill forever.
It’s time to fix the broken stuff.
Time to spend the money because in the American economic system money can be generated at the drop of a hat.
Time to turn empty buildings into housing and job centers.
Time to modernize our transportation system. It’s a 100 years old and collapsing while we watch.
Time to feed the hungry and offer care to the sick that does not make them choose between paying the rent or getting treatment.
Time to clean up the rivers and lakes. And stop the junk from flowing to them.
Time to unpollute the land left behind when industries moved on and left their mess for someone else to clean.
Time to stop pretending that we have all the time in the world to fix things.
Time to stop complaining when someone else offers a plan.
And time to face the question: What would be worse: passing on to our grandchildren financial debt (FYI, the $1.75 trillion the feds want to borrow for 10 years is a fraction of the estimated US gross national product for that time estimated by the Congressional Budget Office at about $360 trillion) that would be recouped, or a broken world?
Time to stop talking, prevaricating, blaming, accusing, puffing ourselves up with self-importance.
Time to listen.
Time to act.
Because some of us won’t be here to use that new Route15/80 intersection.
But that 8-year-old from Sparta will be.
If it gets done in time.
Enough is enough: Fix the broken stuff and see what happens.