Traffic problems were, are overstated |

Traffic problems were, are overstated

If all of you whimpering Nevada County motorists – especially you flatland transplants – could just quit bellyaching about your five-minute traffic tie-ups long enough, you might just remember what a real traffic jam feels like.

If you can’t, maybe you should take a drive down to San Francisco on a weekday and plan on a return trip sometime around 5 p.m. By the time you get back to Grass Valley, six or seven hours later, you’ll have a much deeper appreciation for the Glenbrook Basin at noon.

Sorry, folks. A five-minute wait through a couple of traffic signal changes does not constitute a traffic jam.

People have been known to starve to death, wrinkle, have babies, commit murder, read six James Michener novels, develop meaningful relationships, and miss an entire baseball season during real traffic jams.

No joke.

You want traffic jams? I knew a 30-year-old guy who left for work one day from Marin County to go to downtown San Francisco. By the time he got home he was eligible for Social Security benefits.

It’s doubly sickening to listen to those L.A. natives moan, cuss and generally pop blood vessels as they wait in line for a hamburger at a local fast-food establishment. I watched a couple of them go at it just the other day.

“Hey, settle down back there,” yelled the guy with the downtown Oakland plates, after listening to six blasts from the car horn behind him.

“Who are you telling to settle down?” countered the jerk in the Chevy with the Burbank license plates. “If you don’t get that piece of junk moving in 10 seconds, I’m going to feed you a Big Mac through the ear.”

“Oh, yeah?” replied Oakland, gesturing with his hand. “I’ve got your Big Mac right here!”

Just five months earlier the same two guys would pop out of bed at 4 a.m. just to get to work by 9, and they’d arrive home just in time to gobble some chow and fall asleep on the living room easy chair. They were retired before they saw their children for the first time.

Then there’s the argument, “If I wanted traffic I would have stayed in L.A.”

“Well,” I respond. “If you really didn’t want traffic, maybe you should have left your hot rod in L.A. and walked to Grass Valley.”

We are inundated with horror stories predicting mass population pickups for Nevada County by the year 2000 and transportation officials are doing their best to prevent another Embarcadero Freeway between Nevada City and Auburn.

But look at it this way: The real traffic jam areas will grow proportionately to Nevada County and our traffic problems here will never quite qualify for “jam” status.

So don’t get yourself in a tizzy next time you have to wait through a couple of red lights downtown. Just think of all the suckers down south who have to take a week off just to get to lunch.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: I wrote the above column almost 19 years ago (Dec. 12, 1986). Nevada County has grown much since then and many of those screaming the loudest about growth and traffic today moved here after that column was written. They brought themselves, their families and two or three cars and immediately set about complaining about traffic and growth. And while we do need to address some traffic problem areas, we still do not have commuter hours, but rather, as one traffic official said, “commuter minutes.” I can still get to Penn Valley from my office in the Glenbrook Basin in 15 minutes, which is faster than it took 19 years ago. Besides, if the price of gasoline continues to rise, most Nevada County motorists will have to stay home, or walk anyway.


Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299,, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

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