Columns » Ranger Rich

Cheering the new concrete

Ranger Rich



When I was a youngster, my father put his arm around my shoulder one day and said, "Boy, if you ever have the chance to go to a dedication ceremony for a new road, don't miss it!"

Then he unfolded a pillowcase and walked into the woods behind our house to gather another load of acorns because, according to the thickness of the hair on his back, we were in for a long, harsh winter.

The point here, I think, is that road-interchange dedication ceremonies are breathtaking. I recently got a chance to attend one right in our village. Here I imagine most of you are saying, "You lucky bastard!"

The big event had a festive, circus-like feel that only grew stronger when I walked in and people whispered, "Oh, great. Dumbo is here."

The gathering marked the completion of the new interchange of Woodmen Road and Academy Boulevard, along with other related work. Even Mayor Steve Bach attended, taking a brief respite from his usual daily activities, such as sitting at his desk with his face buried in his hands, wondering what the hell he was thinking when he decided to run for mayor.

Seriously, the project took 19,500 cubic yards of concrete, enough, we were told, "to fill six Olympic swimming pools." (Which might make Olympic diving slightly more watchable.) The project also used 165,000 square yards of asphalt, put down in layers by road workers. Or, as our highly esteemed Congressman Doug Lamborn calls them, "tar babies."

The work even involved resurfacing nearby roads, including an actual road called Olga Willson Way, just east of the interchange. (I called my wife after the festivities to say I'd be home right after I got off of Olga Willson. I don't know why, but I'm now sleeping outside with our dog.)

The tent ceremony took place in a shopping center parking lot, near a terrific store called the Dress Barn. ("Honey, your dress looks lovely. But something smells like a horse.") It also featured a dozen Model A Ford cars from the 1920s and 1930s, vehicles that were, as I understand it, brand-new when construction of the Woodmen interchange began.

Speaking of old things that have undergone a lot of restoration, Mayor Bach kicked off the furious back-patting with a riveting two-minute speech in which he thanked everyone for "working together." (I was doing OK until one of the toothpicks propping up my eyelids snapped.)

Footnote: After the ceremony, our mayor got into his car and headed back to work creating new jobs in our village — just like those jobs in Germany, where they made his very expensive silver Audi Q5 automobile.

Councilwoman Jan Martin then re-thanked everyone, pointing out that the project came in "on budget and ahead of schedule." In the world of government projects, I think you know what that means: Someone is going to get fired.

Representing Washington, D.C., was Federal Highway Administration official Victor Mendez, who said his boss, President Barack Obama, envisioned just such projects as part of the American Recovery Act. Left unsaid was that Obama would've enjoyed the Woodmen project more if somewhere deep inside those 19,500 cubic yards of concrete was House Speaker John Boehner.

Colorado Department of Transportation head Don Hunt said the new interchange would help "move goods around quickly" and would convince companies to relocate here. You know, as long as they don't find out that our enlightened mayor thinks gays and lesbians have cooties.

Then everyone was asked to give a round of applause to the construction workers involved in the project. Many of them were there and acknowledged the applause by waving to the crowd, having carefully taken one hand off the shovel they were leaning on.

Anyway, the new interchange is great. It even has two decorative islands with gigantic fake-rock sculptures to look at while you sit in your car at the red lights. Or you can read the newspaper and shave.

No, really, before they spent roughly $50 million on the new interchange, it would take motorists four or five minutes to get through the intersection. Now it can take, well, three or four minutes.

So we'll definitely be on time for all those great new jobs the mayor keeps talking about.

I think I'll go fill another pillowcase with acorns.

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