Sure, the calendar says September, but the weather is in the 60s, windy, overcast -- it's October, man. I'm telling you. Me like.
While some of the universities opened this week, by law all Michigan public schools open after Labor Day, and WMU follows that model, too. So I don't start the daily commute until Tuesday.
When we first moved down to Allendale in the early 90s, the main drag of M-45 Lake Michigan Drive was just a two-lane state highway. The speed dropped from 55 mph to 45 mph in town. I think there was a 35 mph School speed limit during certain morning and afternoon hours. When M-45 was turned into a four-lane divided boulevard, the speed limit was raised from 45 mph to 50 mph, with a 35 mph School zone marked with electronic signs.
During all these years, Allendale built a new high school, so the old high school on M-45 became a middle school. They added a middle school to the new high school, so the old high school became an elementary school. And then they built a new elementary school, so the old school building became dormant -- and having gotten no bids, will now be demolished. Meanwhile, the boulevard widening project begat the new grocery store and shopping area project -- so the Allendale Christian elementary school built a new building away from M-45.
Bottom line is that there are no longer any schools on M-45 through town now. So I noticed last week that some of the 50 mph speed limit signs began disappearing and now they are all gone. There is now no speed limit reduction in driving east-west on the main drag in Allendale. Fifty-five all the way, baby.
Going Around After The Detour
My traffic detour around the Solon/Howard/Kendall Street construction lasted far longer than I thought it would, before I learned that they were putting in not one, but two new roundabouts (traffic circles). That project was supposed to have ended on Friday 27 August 2010, but I didn't have to be on campus from Monday 23 August to Wednesday 1 September. So Wednesday was my first run through the new system.
Howard Street skirts around the west side of the WMU campus, but then divides into two one-way streets -- Solon (inbound) and Kendall (outbound). What they've done is make one traffic circle where Solon intersects Howard and the new Arboretum Drive (up the big hill), and a second where Howard meets Kendall -- and the old drive up the hill is gone.
Michigan is currently going on a roundabout building binge, figuring it's cheaper and safer than traffic lights for certain levels of traffic. I don't know about safer, too many people don't know what they're supposed to do in a traffic circle. Worse, these are all two-lane circles, which means you get people on the inside lanes darting to the outside to get out of the circle... whoops?
The Kendall roundabout is somewhat problematic for me. Two lanes BOTH going on the eastbound exit to Howard? I'm going to avoid the left lane on this one, even though I need to be in the left lane at the next light. And part of the old intersection was retained westbound, so there's a traffic island. The right lane ends up directly on Kendall, but it's a merge with a Yield sign, because the left lane goes into the traffic circle and then exits out onto the same Kendall as the right lane. Yeah, that's going to be a mess.
Meanwhile, Back On US-131
There's a bridge over the Kalamazoo River just north of Exit 49, M-89 for Allegan and Plainwell, which is on a curve and an incline. It's a frequent ice skating rink wreck site in the winter. I noticed on Thursday that they've paved or painted something on the left hand lane and left shoulder of the bridge. Have they added a non-skid surface? Because that's what it looks like. Sort of intrigued to see if that sort of thing will work in icy conditions.
Labor Day Weekend
Meanwhile, gas prices for most of the summer have oscillated in the $2.75.9 to $2.95.9 per gallon range. This past week, though, we watched the gas prices dropping: $2.79.9/gal $2.75.9/gal $2.65.9/gal $2.59.9/gal and finally down to $2.55.9/gal, which I paid on Thursday morning. But driving out of Allendale after tanking up, I noticed that Speedway was up to $2.79.9/gal and indeed, so was everyone else by nightfall. Gas was $2.78.9/gal on Saturday.
So, the local gas stations managed to drop prices and then jump them up in time for the Labor Day weekend, without actually raising prices above what they were two weeks ago. Go figure. I tell you, that without the Gulf and Kalamazoo River oil spills, I imagine prices would've gone over $3/gal for most of the summer. Not that I'm advocating environmental disasters as a way to control gasoline prices at the pump. (evil grin)