Please note: I use exchange, interchange and intersection here interchangeably. I know, that’s not precise. But I’ve heard all three used. I suspect there are regional differences when it comes to what they are called that I am completely unaware of, or have forgotten.
I’m an east coast kind of guy. I’ve always wanted to check out the west. Maybe someday. But I can tell you a little bit about intersections here on the east coast. When I say intersections I mean not only specific ones, but specific kinds of designs like rotaries, or suicide swing as I call them. A few years ago Music Row in Nashville, my home base, advertised that they had built the safest intersection possible right in front of Music Row; a “roundabout.” When I got home from tour I laughed and told my wife, “It’s a bloody rotary.”
Advertising pamphlet read something like this: “Roundabouts can be found all over Europe and, when traffic rules are obeyed, they are the safest kind of intersection that can be built.
Here’s a tiny clue: that’s the problem. No one pays attention to the friggin rules. And the less they do the more a rotary; no matter how you relabel it, becomes one the most dangerous kind of intersections in the world. A few years later after bragging about their wonderful “roundabout” they are rather mum about their “safe” intersection.
I wrote the first version of this Inspection about a year ago and went looking for it this month. After visiting Providence I was desperate to dust it off and try again. Just a sec. (The sound of blowing dust.) Cough, sputter, wheeze… there, that’s better.
I guess “wheeze” better get on with it…
You see I just went through Providence a few days before I typed this and had to do a few spin arounds to get going towards Mass. When you come off Rt. 6; from the western side of the city, and hit I-95 you used to have less than a thousand feet to swing across six lanes of rush hour traffic to make the interstate heading towards Cod which takes you into Mass. from RI. That’s where I’ve always had to go because I have clients in Seekonk. That’s why I used to consider it to be the worst intersection on my tour route which goes from Louisiana to Maine. I’ll get back to you once their done if I get a chance for a Siskel and Ebert thumbs up or down.
Fifteen years ago I actually ran into the guy who designed the one they’re now replacing. His wife used to be a client of mine and she invited me over to the house. He had just told me what he did for a living and that he used to live in Providence area, but my clueless nature never made the connection. We got talking about “idiotic designs” and I mentioned, “Hey, and who was the idiot who designed the Route 6/I-95 interchange, anyway?”
Remember I said his wife used to be a client?
I suspect he designed the Jacksonville, Florida I-10/I-95 intersection, or interchange if you wish to be more accurate, because it used to suffer from the same problem… only no where near as bad.
Well, when I drove through Providence I was happy to see they’re tearing out his horror of a highway exchange that has caused so many accidents, even though I missed my exit because of the work. How many deaths and how much money has been spent because some man earned wads of cash designing suicidal interchanges?
Plus, I have always marveled at how they keep cutting down the number of lanes as you approach such a major monstrosity. If you are a plumber you don’t shrink the pipe where the highest pressures are most likely to occur. And an electrician doesn’t intentionally take the location of the house where there will be the most wires and get the grounds, the negatives and the positives as tightly bundled as possible, with little to no protection: not even a coating around the damn wire. That would be like asking for a fire, or a burst pipe… which I assume a lot happened just like that as radiators got smashed and gas tanks exploded in Jacksonville and Providence year after year.
Let’s skip the more personal; body-based, carnage imagery for now.
Another atrocity is the exchange, intersection or interchange where to go left you have to go right, and right to go left. Even if they warn you in time; which they usually don’t, you naturally tend to go the other way. Oh, sometimes they have to do it that way, but most the time it really doesn’t appear to be for any other purpose than getting you to curse and others to do radical, insane maneuvers: attempting to correct what they normally wouldn’t have done if the damn thing had made sense to begin with.
I know: they shouldn’t be doing that. But everyone knows there are idiot drivers out there, but we certainly shouldn’t be designing interchanges and intersections that encourages lunacy.
Finally, while it’s not specifically an intersection, exchange or interchange, let me give a shout out to the morons who man road construction when they do it just over some rise or just around a corner. Yes, I may be talking to you officer, if your the one gesturing wildly and lecturing drivers because they came around a sharp corner “too fast” and found you. Could it be possible that you’re too damn close to a rise, a hill or a sharp corner and they can’t see you in enough time to react? Do you think the cleaners will be able to get the bloodstains and the tire marks off your uniform after someone who couldn’t see you tries to add you to the menu at The Roadkill Cafe? (There really is a “Roadkill Cafe” in Florida somewhere off Route 20: Panhandle region. Saw it a few times while on tour. I’m assuming the cutesy Skunk Sandwich and such are actually “other,” meat-wise…. but ya never know.)
So maybe you all might want to find some way to let people know a little sooner further down the road both ways, huh?
If you have any intersections, interchanges or exchanges: whatever you want to call them, that you would like to talk about, please feel free to comment here or E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m sure I’ve missed a lot. But just to be clear, I certainly don’t “miss” missing them. I have enough of them to handle as it is, thank you.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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