I had an opportunity to travel Interstate 90 across part of Minnesota, Interstate 35 to Des Moines, Iowa, and Interstate 80 east across half of Iowa, all of Illinois, and Indiana.
The aforementioned interstate highways, except the Indiana Tollroad, were above average in parts and excellent in the remainder. Whilst traveling across the entirety of Illinois on Interstate 80 and to Des Moines on Interstate 80, I did not detect one single pothole or significant bump in the road. The roadsides were well groomed and the shoulders of the road were well maintained, well groomed, and safe for use. For the Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota portion of the trip, I found the rest stops to be devoid of vulgar commercialism, well maintained, and the landscaping of pleasant quality and nature. The toilets were clean and maintained. In one rest stop just outside of Davenport, Iowa, I saw a custodian waxing the floor of the toilets with a buffer. I could not find a single speck of dust in the entire building, the windows were clean, and the air was breathable. From the Illinois-Indiana border to the Minnesota-South Dakota border, I did not have to pay a single penny in tolls.
The Indiana Tollroad was shocking in contrast. Immediately upon crossing the Illinois-Indiana border, I had to slow my speed from a nice 70 miles per hour to less than thirty hours per hour because of the extremely poor quality of the road surface. Even at 30 miles per hour, I feared that a king pin would be sheared because the potholes were of such high number that it was impossible to miss these. For the duration of the trip on Interstate 80 in Indiana, the road surface was badly broken, repairs had been done in such a shoddy manner that the shock absorbers could not smooth the ride, the shoulder of the road was broken and unsafe, and the roadside was poorly maintained. I even witnessed a crew removing some tree limbs from the side of the road by throwing these over the fence onto the land of a homeowner.
The rest stops are, shall we say, from hell. Upon entry, I found the parking entrance road to be badly potholed, the pavement seriously cracked, and the parking lot had not, apparently, been maintained in many years. Then I found the restrooms. These are designed with two sets of lavatories: each equipped with a metal gate that can be closed to allow cleaning whilst the other is open to the public. I observed that: in each rest stop, I had to stop frequently as I had a considerable amount of tea to drink before starting and the road was so bumpy that I quickly became miserable, the gates were hanging at odd angles and badly broken. I attended in the course of the afternoon and there was not a single custodian in sight. I observed that the gated lavatories had, apparently, not been cleaned in a very long time. In the parts that were open, the urinals were over flowing with urine, which then flowed across the floor and collected into pools. The toilet seats were badly broken and the toilets overflowing with feces. The doors to the toilets were broken and would not close, the sinks were filthy, the water for the faucets ran at a bare trickle, and there was no soap in the soap dispensers and the hand dryers did not work. Each rest stop was sure to have a McDonalds and low-life vendors hawking their wares. One could not enjoy the view through the windows since these were smeared with grease and the outside had not, evidently, been cleaned since Methuselah was a teen-ager. Nowhere was there any place outside to comfortably sit or to walk around, except on the parking lot where the safety of one would be endangered by the speeding traffic.
What, then, is the difference between the Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota interstate highways and Interstate 80 in Indiana? A number of years ago, the republicans in Indiana decided to “sell” Interstate 80 on a 99 year lease to a private company based in Australia for $4 billion to balance the state budget. On top of that, if an emergency occurs on Interstate 80, local emergency systems are called to manage the problem as the State of Indiana will not provide emergency services. Of course, the local governmental entities must foot the bill for such services with an increase in local taxes. As has happened in too many cases, the company pockets the money and the public infrastructure and service is degraded to that of a third-world country. So much for the benefits of “privatization” of public utilities, infrastructure, and services.
When will the republicans ever learn that their ideology simply does not work?
Nathan A. Busch