Dark side of the vroom.


Q: Dear Ace, My eyesight’s not as sharp as it once was, especially when driving at night. I can navigate the city roads, no problem, but put me out on the dark county highways—especially Route 29N and Route 250 Pantops—and watch out! Why doesn’t the County provide streetlights on these two major highways leading into the city? Who’s in charge of getting streetlights for highways like these?—Toonces

A: Now, now, Toonces, don’t try to pull a fast one on old Ace! Ace’s memory, if anything, is sharp and the “SNL” Renaissance of the late ’80s is just like yesterday to Ace. Yes, my friend, Ace remembers you and knows that you are a cat. Make that a cat with a bad driving record. So you can blame your bad driving on the County’s infrastructural failings all you want, but Ace knows the truth—paws, claws and a long, furry tail make driving off cliffs seem natural.

    Still, Ace feels your question is worthy. Looking into the matter, Ace was reacquainted with a little something known as “bumbling bureaucracy.” One would think that streetlighting would not be an uncommon subject among those charged with improving and maintaining our county’s highways and byways. Wrong. By inquiring about these newfangled “streetlights,” Ace may as well have been talkin’ Greek.

   Ace first called the Virginia Department of Transportation. VDOT immediately referred Ace to Juandiego Wade, Transportation Planner for Albemarle County. Ace phoned Wade, who immediately referred Ace back to Chuck Proctor, an engineer with VDOT.

   According to Proctor, VDOT does not call up Dominion Power and request streetlights “unless it’s considered a safety issue,” meaning that “there tend to be accidents” on the road at night. Apparently, routes 29 and 250 have not proven perilous enough for VDOT standards. The County handles all other streetlight concerns and requests, said Proctor.

   So, Ace called Wade back again, to share this information. After some hemming and hawing, Wade conceded that he would be the person to handle such concerns, but that since he took the job in 1991, he’s never had to process “that kind of complaint.”

   “I would be happy to do it,” Wade continued. “I’m thinking I’m the logical person…. If I get [that kind of request], I wouldn’t say, ‘No we don’t do that.’ I would take it, follow it through.”

   In short, if concerned citizens call Mr. Wade at 296-5823, ext. 3368 and request that lights be installed along these perilous routes into the city, then perhaps one day such lights shall illuminate the major arteries. Until that day, however, Ace has
just three words of advice: “Toonces, look out!!!!”

   (Crash, burn, bang.)