By all means-please feel free to blame Mother Nature for the recent weeks of rain, cloud cover, and record mountain snow melt that have now formed the "perfect storm" to nudge Lake Champlain into its worst flooding since 1969.
Conversely, please feel free to blame Vermont officials for ignoring those same old roads that get submerged-year after year- and disrupt traffic patterns in Addison County and beyond. The pattern is predictable and getting very old.
Take the narrow, two-lane "causeway" just south of the Lake Champlain Bridge site on Route 125.
The so-called McCuen Slang area of the lake is a popular fishing and waterfowl viewing locale. It's lovely during summer and autumn months, but this time of year the little Route 125 causeway is invisible-partially or completely submerged by spring's predictable high water season.
And of course, every year, drivers deal with high lake water lapping at the edges of the slang or actually spilling on to it.
Now take last week's record lake flooding. It was the worst flooding in recent memory. Some weather experts are still debating the record, but who's to quibble? Regardless of the recordbook, the 2011 flooding was terrible and costly. Properties were damaged and lives disrupted.
Last week was the first-time lake water completely submerged the slang causeway in more than a decade.
But knowing that the slang is a low area that is barely above the level of the lake and prone to flooding, why hasn't it ever been shored up? Seriously. Are we supposed to simply accept the slang's periodic inundations? I certainly don't accept this kind of lazy highway planning.
After last week's flooding, either better berming-even bridging-of the Route 125 causeway should be a VTrans project priority. We've heard the excuse about "no funds". What happened to them when we had them?
Several years back, we were told, the slang was built up-slightly-but Vtrans had never anticipated that the lake would rise to last week's record 107 feet above sea level.
While Vermont's rapid lake rise last Tuesday was bad, it could have been worse (and we have seen worse flooding in the American midwest and southeast this spring).
Once again, we the taxpayers-and local commuters-have to ask Vermont's elected and appointed officials:What are our transportation taxes being used for, if not to rebuild peanut-brittle bridges, scarify pothole road surfaces laid atop poorly made beds, and shore-up areas where annual highway flooding occurs like clockwork?
An out-of-state friend of mine remarked two years ago that most of Vermont's roadways looked, to him, like the thoroughfares in Lil'Abner's Dog Patch. Ouch.
Have Vermont's officials considered the financial link between our crumbling bridges and roads-and tourism?
Seriously, what visitor wants to buy a jug of Vermont maple syrup or a cottage-made tchotchke when he or she needs a wheel alignment-or even a submersible engine snorkel installed-in the process?
Example: Have you driven along U.S. Route 7 near the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory in Shelburne? Now think of all the tourists visiting the famous factory. They will have memories for a lifetime of their very own teddy bears and Vermont's version of the Baja 1,000 off-road race.
Sure, I know all about the toll freezing and thawing has on our roads (I've lived in North Dakota!), but honestly-there are more streets and alleys in the greater metropolitan area of frosty Albany, N.Y., than in the State of Vermont. Metro Albany doesn't look half as bad. So, why has this state ignored so many of its highway and bridge problems for so long?
There's no need to expect the same roads to be underwater year after year.
Ask your state legislator if he or she can do something about this problem. Let's solve a problem instead of just expecting the same dreadful thing to occur year after year.