Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Germans, Road Funding, and Reality

In the early 1990s....I bought a property just north of Kaiserslautern.  It was a small village (2,500 residents), that had a hotel, a pharmacy, two pubs, a bakery and a butcher-shop.  At the end of town....lay this road to the 'big' village just four kilometers away.  They had the gas station, the four grocery stores, the real pool, an ice-cream shop and twenty-odd business enterprises, along with a railway station.

For the past five or six decades....the route between these two villages became an important topic.  There was no walking trail, as you might expect with most German villages.  The road between the two? was roughly 5.5 kilometers....ziging and zaging at ninety-degree turns.  No trees.  No streams.  No bridges.  Just open fields and a slightly slanted hillside. Five-and-a-half kilometers of pavement to cover a four-kilometer distance.

What I learned the first year, as winter set in....between the morning temperatures and'd have black ice to develop. At least once a week from November to March....some car would skid off the road.  Some would flip over. Some would ram into the side of an oncoming car.  I reached a point by the second winter that I'd bypass the road and go an alternate route.  The locals all knew that the curves built into the road since the 1920s.....was an issue.  Both city councils had gone to the county and cited numbers/statistics over and over.....trying to get the road fixed.

Around the mid-1990s.....the county agreed to put funding into the road.  Basically....they repaved it.  Yeah.....the curves remained and you got the impression that no one at the county understood the overall issue at all.  They simply understood that people wanted a repaving job......end of story.

So, an odd thing happened.  Germany had the World Cup games for 2006.  Kaiserslautern ended up as one of the cities in Germany with at least four games to be played.  For the Pfalz (the state), this was a big they pulled out a big bundle of infrastructure money for the city of Kaiserslautern, and the county around it.  All of this occurred in 2003, with three years of time to achieve various "shovel-ready" jobs.

Somewhere in the mix of things.....someone finally got this road project on the 'fix-list'.  So they arrived one day and shut down the road for approximately six months.  Then they reopened it.

They'd put in a paved bike trail between the two villages (the big shocker).  You could now walk the route in a matter of twenty-five minutes.

The nine zig-zags?  They removed three of them entirely, and spaced out the curves so you could drive 100 kph easily on this road (prior to this.....I wouldn't have driven faster than seventy kph).  Over the next winter.....I can only remember two accidents occurring the entire winter on the road.

The other village down the road?  They had a back-road leading into the village, which the Americans had started to refer years ago as 'suicide-road', because ice and snow would accumulate, and limited sunlight on the road throughout the winter made it highly dangerous.  There was a sixty-degree curve at one point, where a dozen cars a year would slide off and run down a small hillside.  Well.....this whole road was rebuilt, and turned into a highly safe road.

The truth is.....if the World Cup had never come.....we'd never have been given the extra money to do all of this extra stuff.  In some ways, this is the reality of Germany today.  You need some gimmick to attract extra funding from the state apparatus.  Statistics aren't enough.....and since you can't fire political end up with a strange method of solving problems.

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