USC students are no strangers to traffic. We live in the middle of Los Angeles, within short distance of two major freeways; traffic is almost inescapable. On a Friday afternoon, the freeways look like two blankets of lights: one red and one white, slowly moving in opposite directions.
For this reason, delays because of construction are usually unwelcome. Obviously, these repairs are necessary to keep the roads safe. Most of the time, the construction on freeways is done late at night when few cars are on the road.
Negligent management, however, can cause projects to go off-schedule — and the results are often ugly.
Last week, a traffic jam showed how ugly it could get. A combination of miscommunication, disorganization and bad luck led to a 25-mile traffic jam on the 10 Freeway. Drivers had to leave their cars on the freeway to look for gas.
What caused this chaos? Irresponsibility on the part of Caltrans, the state department of transportation. The public information office was not notified about the construction; more road was pulled off than could have been replaced in time; the concrete plant responsible for the replacement went disastrously idle because of a computer error; Caltrans was not made aware in time.
The maelstrom of events that led to this complete stagnation was unlucky. Still, Caltrans should have been able to prevent something of this magnitude from happening. What would have happened if there was an ambulance attempting to use that freeway for an emergency? Lives could have easily been lost.
Caltrans needs to instill stricter policies when undergoing these construction efforts.
The department can develop a checklist dictating that before work starts, the public information office must be notified, and that before roads are being torn up, the state of the replacement concrete must be checked first.
After all, imagine if something like this happened on the 110 Freeway.
Daniel Grzywacz is a sophomore majoring in neuroscience and anthropology. His column “72 Degrees and Shaking” runs Wednesdays.