Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Danger: Bad Intersection Ahead

It doesn’t take a genius. Anybody who regularly has to traverse the intersection at Badger Road and Park Street can tell you why it’s so dangerous. And could probably also tell you that the only real solution is to completely re-arrange the intersection, much like the talk about what to do with the far west side traffic problems that all come together near Junction Road and Mineral Point Road.

My friend Pat Simms’ article in the State Journal lists the litany of worst intersections in Madison in terms of number of crashes, and there’s not a single surprise on this year’s list. The second-worst intersection, Commercial Ave and North Thompson Drive on the east side, is one of those damnable roundabouts which so few drivers in Madison seem to have mastered, and on the list at number 3 is Midvale at Mineral Point, a 4-way stop which is a tribute to driver stupidity. It’s a straightforward intersection of two four-lane boulevards, which apparently attracts some of the most impatient drivers in the city. The solution there is traffic signal lights. It doesn’t take a genius.

I go through the Park and Badger intersection about ten times in a typical week, and I’ve had so many close calls there….or within a couple hundred feet of it….that I approach the area with extreme caution every time. It’s quite a different situation from the Midvale – Mineral Point intersection, because the traffic volume at Park and Badger is so much higher. You’ve got people (like me) coming up HiWay 14 from the “southern suburbs”; a constant flow of traffic coming off the Beltline to exit at Park (which, by the way, is also Hiway 151); people headed south on Park (HiWay 151) trying to get on the Beltline; and a mix of regular neighborhood traffic, pedestrians galore, AND the south-side Metro Bus Transfer Point.

They’re dickering around with the traffic lights at Badger and Park and putting up some sort of “signage” to warn drivers coming up HiWay 14 that there’s a busy intersection ahead, but the real solution is to completely re-arrange the intersection, which would require a LOT of construction, a LOT of money, and a LOT of inconvenience for thousands of drivers for a LONG time.

Ain’t gonna happen.

I’m not sure why roundabouts are so challenging; I don’t like them, but don’t have any real problems navigating them. There’s one on South Towne Drive just a couple hundred feet south of the South Towne exit from the Beltline that I go through frequently. You can just tell when somebody ahead of you bears watching. They timidly come to a complete stop at the “yield” sign, even if there’s no traffic in the roundabout; look both ways about four times, and then proceed immediately into the INSIDE lane of the roundabout and then rapidly, without warning, swerve into the outside lane and make their escape.

And there are always the idiots who just suddenly and without warning move from the inside lane of the roundabout to the outside lane, without checking their mirrors, and wind up side-swiping some unsuspecting law-abiding otherwise safe driver. That’s why the Commercial Ave – Thompson Drive roundabout is #2 on the list. But the city dismisses the problems there by saying most of the wrecks are side-swipes, with low impact, and few people get injured. Simms’ article quotes a city spokesperson as calling that an “acceptable trade-off”.

But I’m sure there are a lot of young folks who will tell us they could go through any of the worst ten intersections in the city while texting with one hand and changing the iPod player with the other, and never be involved in an accident.

Ah, the confidence of youth.

1 comment:

  1. There are traffic signals at Midvale & Mineral Point not stop signs.