Traveling through Selma’s new ‘Malfunction Junction’

Published 7:28 am Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Day one of the massive Dallas County bridge replacement project and, admittedly, lesson learned.

I learned the very valuable lesson — along with hundreds of my closest driving compadres — that using J.L. Chestnut Boulevard, as the primary way home was a big mistake.

Monday morning, as someone who lives on the “other side” of the bridge, I drove down Dallas Avenue toward downtown Selma, knowing full well barricades would likely detour my morning commute. But, happily, there were no barricades.

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In fact, the bridge over Valley Creek was not blocked off to traffic until early afternoon, leaving the drive home commute as the first one requiring a new route home. So, as suggested by city officials, I went J.L. Chestnut. Apparently, everyone who lives on the “other side” had the exact same idea.

As the line meandered its way from Lauderdale Street, through the Summerfield Road intersection, past Calhoun’s and toward what is easily going to become one of the more horrific intersections in all of Selma — the one at J.L. Chestnut, Medical Center Parkway and Old Cahaba Road — I had a lot of time to think about alternate routes home.

In talking with my dentist Monday morning, the topic of the detours came up. He jokingly suggested driving out U.S. Highway 80 to Camden, back to Orrville and then back to toward downtown. What was surely meant as a joke under the influence of anesthesia quickly became a real possibility the longer I sat at Selma’s “Malfunction Junction” waiting on the longest light in history to change.While having a seven to 10 minute drive had spoiled me, I believe spending 20 minutes or more won’t be the end of me, especially considering compared to the morning and evening commutes endured by friends of mine in metro areas.

Still, a better route will have to be found. Over the next few weeks and months, the congestion on these detour routes will only get worse as schools go back in session and repaving work begins on Old Cahaba Road, Medical Center Parkway and a portion of J.L. Chestnut Boulevard.We may never truly appreciate the planning and work put in place to ensure these detours are both safe and effective, but something leads me to believe some tweaking is going to be needed.

It is my hope city and state officials continue to evaluate the detour routes, finding ways to reduce commute times.

There is roughly a month before schools start and if Monday is any indication, there are going to be a lot of tardy notices handed out early on.

Then again, there’s a very good chance I should get home just in time for graduation.