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Patience (and Appreciation of Highway Construction) Is a Virtue

Columbus Commons, the Short North, Nationwide Arena, the Statehouse, and the Scioto Mile.  All of these are reasons to visit our lovely downtown and enjoy its recent revival. Yet, in just a few short weeks, driving to these areas itself will become an activity. This autumn marks the beginning of a major face lift to local highways and freeways leading directly to many of Columbus’s downtown attractions. ODOT has begun the multi-year  re-construction on the 71/670 split. More than a dozen on and off ramps will close. The project will affect up to 135,000 drivers a day. And while we drivers don’t relish the thought of sitting in traffic during the winter months, such construction is necessary.  Everyone enjoys the thought of new businesses and attractions luring people (and their wallets) downtown. Not only does such business help sustain the larger city economy, but it also helps generate national interest in Columbus as a vibrant city.  Yet many forget that in order to sustain that vitality, we need proper infrastructure to support travel to and from a Blue Jackets game. Highways and freeways are a part of such infrastructure, and it is our responsibility as citizens to endure construction projects that ultimately equal support of our city’s future. Community responsibility aside, the split reconstruction is going to be a pain in the neck. Because the High Street trolley is not an option, I have compiled a list of sanity–saving tips drivers can use to ease their pain while weaving through side-streets and avoiding 71 gridlock. First, pack food. It doesn’t matter what kind, but the crunchier the better as it is easy to vent driving frustrations chomping down on a hard apple or a sourdough pretzel.  If you’re a morning commuter, pack a baggie of Cheerios. That way you’re fighting heart disease while also fighting the urge to use the emergency lane as a fast track to the Statehouse. Second, pack a drink.  Nothing is worse than sitting in traffic, staring longingly at the coffee mug in the neighboring car when you have cottonmouth from consuming those silly Cheerios. Third, recruit a driving buddy.  While many already carpool, having a driving buddy helps rotate driving responsibilities.  And you can share the burden of idly staring at the back of the Nissan with the “My Child is an Honor Student...â€? bumper sticker as you inch your way through the split. Lastly, listen to your local NPR station during your commute! Let’s face it: nothing is more soothing than the voices of Morning Edition, and you can totally score points with the boss if you spend your extra time in the car learning about the European debt crisis.   If nothing else, you can listen to some commentator tell you about all the things you should have done to prepare for the 2011 traffic-apocalypse, but didn’t. Hang in there, Columbus commuters! Before we know it, the 71/70-construction will be complete and the next round of painful infrastructure improvements will begin.