Sunday, December 7, 2008

Let us now praise highway architects

So imagine the state I live in, NJ, which has the greatest concentration of cars per square mile in the entire north American continent. Now imagine the population center, which is pretty much central, given that you can get with equal stress and strain to either Philadelphia or Manhattan, where a lot of jobs are.

Then imagine the six lane Route One, and the cursed NJ Turnpike, many many commuters whizzing back and forth between them. On a small road with a tiny railroad bridge over the main eastern seaboard rail lines. At the main train station for said rail lines. Then imagine the trains from Philly and NY and people getting off them at about the same time, rushing for the cars and zooming into car traffic. All between 4 and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Gridlock, weird kinds of accidents, general chaos daily.

Now imagine that finally the two lane bridge over that main train line has been reopened after several months of being completely shut, causing many detours around mazes of developments. And realize that that two lane road was the main link between Route One in this area and the Turnpike, and you will cringe at the resulting traffic mess.

So after several decades Amtrak, which owns the bridge but was busy lobbying in Washington to keep the trains running,no time for fixing broken old bridges, finally got together with the DOT and various other entities, and the bridge was scheduled for rebuilding totally, safely, to eliminate the nerve wracking aspects of trying to cross it.

And it opened yesterday, so I thought what the heck, I'll cooperate and drive over it and see how it works. And found that, in their infinite wisdom, the NJDOT, instead of putting useful traffic lights and that kind of helpful thing to let you know who has the right of way, always a nice touch, have put a TRAFFIC CIRCLE on TOP of a BRIDGE! with no advance warning, no signs until the last possible moment a yield sign, just as you reach the top of the bridge and imagine you are about to cross it.....then if you manage to circle correctly and get off the other side, the new bridge now leads directly onto the WRONG side of the road at the bottom. Which explains the police cruiser, flashing lights, parked there yesterday to stop people hurtling headon into traffic.

Now, all this is taking place at about 35 mph, but it's surprising how much trouble you can get into at even that speed.

It would not surprise me if the architect gets an award for this. The other award that happened last week was for the transformation of a formerly two lane road outside our post office, into what the designer called a "pedestrian-friendly" SIX lane road with NO crossings. But, if you by chance reach the other side, there's a walking path....that's the friendly part.

I rest my case.


  1. EEEK! A moment of silence in honour of all drivers.

  2. oh good lord.
    as someone who has an interest in design and construction on the railroad (through my work) i found this terrifying.


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