Columns and Letters

Yellow line fever

-by Frank Macdonald

    Where are the yellow lines?
    Maybe they have been swiped by neighbouring counties to enhance the safety on their own roads at the expense of ours. Maybe they simply evaporated like a political promise. Maybe they have been destroyed by vandalizing vehicles.
    The latter seems likely.
    The yellow lines used to run down the centre of the highway and the white lines along the edges of the highways, a year-round handy guide to drivers, giving them a hint of where the pavement ended and the ditches began. Hospital workers, for example, making their pre-dawn way to the Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital, had the aide of a glimmer of white and yellow in their headlights, helping ensure that they arrived at the hospital as employees and not as admittees.
    Glimpses of the lines can be found along the road, and an occasional mile or two seems to sport a brand new trilogy of lines, both roadsides and that fairly essential, but not always there, middle strip. But for too many miles it amounts to not much more than guesswork. Drivers are expected to stay between the lines, but when the lines themselves leave the road, can I be far behind?

    There are sections of Route 19 where heavy truckloads of food or pulp or construction equipment have chipped away the road’s edges, and with them the lines they held, lines that carbon date back two or three elections. Stopping by the roadside to examine the vandalism can be a bit like panning for gold. You pick up a piece of pavement and low and behold! there’s a glimmer of yellow or white letting the highway prospector know that here be traces of a once-civilized roadway.
    Every driver has a story, tales of a favourite (or not) stretch of highway where, between broken edges and middle of the road potholes his or her driving skills have been put to the test, usually just before the car goes in for another alignment. My choice cut of highway in Inverness County is the middle section of the West Lake Ainslie road where the accumulated damage has turned the road into a single lane.
    Driving that stretch of line-free road reminds me of driving in North Uist where the roads are single lane. The difference is that in the Hebrides the single lane highway is intentional, with well placed lay-bys, where a car heading south can pull over as a car heading north goes past, and vice versa. It’s an interesting ballet on lightly travelled highways. On the West Lake Road nothing at all is interesting about it except getting through that dangerous stretch without needing to take a side trip behind a tow truck or in an ambulance.
    The lack of highway lines in Inverness County makes me suspect that the Department of Transportation has been hoarding many hundreds of rolls of yellow and white lines in some abandoned highway garage for a specific purpose.
    Maybe the hoarding is caused by the fact that the vehicles that lay down the white lines can’t do so on the shoulders of roads that no longer have shoulders. Or maybe we voted Progressive Conservative in the last provincial election and a vindictive Liberal government had a bunch of our yellow lines rolled up and brought to an abandoned highway garage somewhere where all the other rolls of yellow and white highway lines are being kept. Maybe there is a secret plan to use those lines to tie yellow ribbons around trees the province wants Nova Scotia Power to cut down to minimize power failures.
    Or maybe the provincial government secretly thinks that the Yarmouth ferry, Nova Scotia’s favourite fairy tale, may actually sail this summer, although the minister in charge of spending undisclosed millions of dollars to float the apparently un-floatable boat doubts it will.
    But let’s suppose that this particular provincial investment in tourism, an investment/agreement with the state of Maine, which calls for the Canadian-based ferry to have an American crew, calls on the Nova Scotia government to cover the cost of renovations to the Bar Harbour wharf where the ferry, if it sails, will deliver its passengers (if it has any), may also require Canada to provide all navigational aids for the ferry’s crossing.
    We all know that no digital or electronic gadget is safe from hackers. The ferry, should it ever set sail from Yarmouth, could be highjacked by hackers and re-routed to Newfoundland or Cuba or Margaree Island. To avoid this mishap, our forward-looking provincial government may be planning a counter strategy to foil potential hacker terrorism.
    Instead of sailing by digital data or the glimmer of starlight, Nova Scotia’s Department of Transportation plans to use the rolls of yellow lines confiscated from Inverness County, and lay them across the waves from Yarmouth to Bar Harbour, creating a liquid highway that the ferry can easily follow through rain and fog while drivers in western Cape Breton continue to guess their way to work in the early morning foggy dew.
    The contract to lay the yellow lines across those waters will, through tough negotiations by the Nova Scotia government, go to American contractors, of course.








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