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A trip down the freeway to dispair

So, have you noticed the traffic on Main St. since US-56 was diverted onto K-256 through Marion? It’s a few more cars, to be sure, but hardly the imponderable traffic jams and undue safety hazards some envisioned. If anything, the biggest impact has been noise — a bit more ringing of cash registers at surviving businesses that cater to transient traffic.

If you’re old enough — though an ever-decreasing number of us aren’t — think back to the ’60s and ’70s, when the highway regularly ran through town — and when the town it traversed actually had an abundance of businesses passing motorists might patronize.

When transportation officials began moving highways to outskirts of towns is when towns began losing out on their ability to sell skirts and other goods offered by mega-stores in distant communities.

The better the transportation system became, the easier it became to drive half an hour to supposedly save half a buck, and the fewer bucks became available to sustain local retailers trying in vain to compete with oligopolies that would have embarrassed even Standard Oil of the trust-busting era.

Progress steamrolled us, and we weren’t even trying to stand in the way of it.

That’s true not only of rural areas. What caused much of the decline of central cities was creation of freeways that allowed residents and shoppers to quickly get to cookie-cutter malls and gated suburban enclaves, which as a result have become so overwhelmed with traffic that the bulk of transportation spending now goes to expanding urban freeways that gave them their birth.

Government priorities followed the money —money that inexorably led into the bank accounts of soulless trans-national corporations — and continued feeding the beast even after it grew unmanageably large.

Most of the problems this nation faces — both urban and rural — have been caused by concerned efforts to transform cities into metropolises — bigger markets to feed even bigger corporate appetites, communities that have grown so big that they have lost any ability to maintain any semblance of community, identity, order, or justice.

The worst part of it is, the harder we try to solve problems by throwing money at them, the bigger the problems become.

It’s time America look back to its roots and start dealing with problems by using the rural and central city areas as they were intended.

Instead of expanding 20-lane freeways in Dallas, where I recently struggled to drive on one, how about sending some money to fix the rural roads in Marion County? An imperceptible skimming of concrete from just one of the hydra-like interchanges I saw under construction would solve this county’s woes for the next 50 years.

We talk about the soaring price and lack of availability of real estate in places like where my son lives near San Francisco Bay, but in Marion County we see dozens of perfectly updatable houses standing vacant.

We overcrowd our cities and depopulate our rural areas, and even when we offer incentives for college graduates to relocate here, the incentives are so quickly snatched up that they can’t provide meaningful inducement.

Elections are coming. It’s time to wise up and stop being impressed with shuck and jive about immigration, Obamacare, abortion, gay marriages and whatever else allows politicians to avoid facing real issues.

Demand that candidates stop talking about pseudo-issues they can’t control and start talking about what they are going to do to revitalize both rural and urban America even if it pinches the pocketbooks of the huge corporations that essentially keep them in their employ.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified July 15, 2015

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