Well, that was interesting…and informative…and fun too.

The Ohio Turnpike had an Open House on Saturday, October 24, celebrating its 60th Anniversary; it officially opened on October 1, 1955, all 241 miles of it.  The construction took 38 months, in sections, employed some 10,000 workers—and 2300 bulldozers—at a cost of some $326 million, give or take.  It connected to the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the far east of Mahoning County and headed all the way west to Williams County, where travelers could head on into Indiana, where it connects to the Indiana Toll Road.  It’s one of the nation’s safest roads,  with an accident rate only 1/10 of the national average for major highways.  Not bad for a transportation option that began with the toll roads of the Babylonians in the 7th century B.C.  Nebuchadnezzar would be proud!

And #Turnpike Proud is where you can connect with the operation, which is really something.  Much of it was on display at all of the maintenance facilities all across the state.  Tell you what else was on display :

*BIG YELLOW MACHINES.  Oh yeah!  *CAT 416F machines, trucks with plows (terminally-tough orange plastic—who knew?) front-end loaders and diggers, dump trucks, stuff with tires taller than I.  *A giant Peterbilt beast from Interstate Towing, Inc.  *All of those signs you see out there—orange ones, yellow ones, directional arrows, LED signs—with or without arrows.  *Decals on the sides of trucks attesting to the fact that these  big bruisers were “Certified Clean Idle”.  *Orange barrels(where have we seen those before?), orange cones.  *Salt (gradual from granola-size down to near-powder).  *Tanks of anti-icing liquid or pre-wet liquid on plow trucks.  *Flashing lights—blue, yellow—on the road trucks and on the Ohio Highway Patrol vehicle( It was black) that was also there displaying the multitude of communication devices it had and the arms available.

There was a couple of offices/control rooms—facing out at the ‘pike, of course—giving a 24/7 look at what was really happening out there, with traffic whizzing by.

Signs—“Click It or Ticket”, “Buckle Up!”,  “ Barile de salvamento”, “Agua salina”( Our workforce is multicultural, after all), “Severe weather shelter area”—Hey, the Turnpike gets tornadoes too.  “Trades” area where craft persons and  contracted workers  punched their timecards and stashed their gear.

Racks of  work clothes, coveralls, rain gear, orange vests; a dirty clothes hamper(about ¾ full, it’s been dry lately).

Horns!  The kids who climbed up into the cabs of the monster trucks were having a field day blasting those things.  The kids’ yellow helmets were all gone by the time I got there, otherwise, I’d have tried one on and tried to look like a juvenile on the way out of the gate

The truck cabs   were something else!  Full of gear and communications equipment, emergency supplies, read-outs of road and machine information—look like cockpits of jet liners, indicative of about how much responsibility they’re taking on every time there’s a vehicle on the road.  There are computers, radios, flares, first aid kits, a hammer(?).  At least one had an E-Z Pass.  These folk work hard and smart, whether the rest of us realize or appreciate them or not.

Did I climb up into the cabs?  Does a bear spit in the woods?

At least one of the seats was for a seven-footer, my feet didn’t even touch the floor.  Another one sank nearly to the floor when visited by an alien butt. They were all pretty comfortable; they have to be. The view from up there is incredible on a sunny day in October; imagine what it’s like during a blizzard in January, with lights flashing overhead and slush spraying out in front.  Awesome.

I met a superintendent, a supervisor, the Director of Risk Management—local girl made good, Tommie Jo Marsillio, other workers, several of them there with their families, having pictures taken in an impromptu frame in the middle of the humungous garage, proud of what they do every day to “Keep ‘em rollin’”.

James W. Shocknessy, first chairman to the turnpike commission, for whom the official name is designated (James W. Shocknessy Ohio Turnpike) would be amazed, no doubt, that the big road is part of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways—I-76, I-80, I-90—but he would surely be Turnpike Proud too.