This joke is on us

By From page A5 | May 16, 2012

The joke: “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

The punch line: “To get to the other side.”

Everyone’s heard the joke and the multitude of answers to the basic question. Now it seems the joke’s on us as we’ve changed from chickens crossing the road to deer and other wildlife.

With the construction of a tunnel under Highway 50 all of the problems of potential road kill are solved. Or are they? For a mere $1.6 million, the California Department of Transportation has addressed a serious hazard of deer crossing the highway.

The vicinity between the El Dorado and Greenstone exits was identified as a high-risk crossing. According to a state-wide study of wildlife highway hazards (wonder how much that cost) deer are crossing this stretch of Highway 50 more frequently than other locations.

California, in its most adept financial wisdom, saw fit to move forward with construction of a plan that’s been sitting on a shelf for several years regardless of the state’s budget crisis. I suppose constructing a deer tunnel in the state’s eyes is far more important than funding education or providing services to the needy.

Bambi lovers will taut this as a wonderful idea. And some will point out the safety benefit to drivers now that deer are crossing underneath their vehicles instead of crashing through their windshields.

This sounds nice but what about the deer crossing farther up the road east of the Smith Flat exit or the Pollock Pines area? Could having this tunnel in place today prevented the death of the deer one mile farther west at the Red Hawk interchange last week? And what about the deer roaming through Placerville? What becomes of them? Will they be advised to use the pedestrian Bedford Street overpass?

After the installation of the tunnel what next? Will the state target an educational campaign to inform the deer population of this new safer tunnel crossing? Let’s see. They might try posting signs along Highway 50 with arrows pointing to the new crossing area. On second thought, don’t use arrows as this might cause unnecessary psychological harm to the deer, especially when bow-hunting season opens.

Did anyone consider installing a deer fence along this stretch of highway? Since deer are known as pretty good leapers, a deer fence of say 8 feet might impede them from crossing the highway. Both shoulders at the tunnel site drop down 20 or 30 feet so erecting a fence wouldn’t obstruct the view of drivers and certainly wouldn’t cost taxpayers as much.

This solution may have been too simplistic for the Department of Transportation. Spending just comes easy for the state. Just witness this needless boondoggle. And legislators wonder why Joe Taxpayer holds them in such low esteem.

Deer lovers will rejoice knowing these sweet creatures will be safe from harm using a “wildlife crossing” built exclusively for them. Of course the deer must understand they’ll need to share it with raccoons, opossums, skunks and other critters. Perhaps additional signage at the tunnel openings could include a picture of a rabbit hoping into this big hole.

Meanwhile back in the human’s world everyone can feel better knowing we’re saving the lives of some deer and other varmints crossing Highway 50.

And at the same time we can introduce a new version to the old joke of why the chicken crossed the road. This one might make more sense.

The joke: “Why did the humans spend $1.6 million to build a tunnel under the road?”

The punch line: “Because digging holes to throw taxpayer money into comes easy to those with a higher regard for animals than human beings.”

Richard Esposito


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