There’s going to be one hell of a wreck at Rimrock and the belt. It’s only a matter of time. The re-working of the Park Street interchange is a ticking time bomb. And, the old saying “it’s going to get worse before it gets better” probably applies.
A few weeks ago, city traffic engineers compiled the annual list of most dangerous intersections in the city, and at the top is Park Street and Badger Road. Anyone who has to navigate that minefield on a regular basis is aware of the dangers, but for infrequent users, it’s a snake-in-the-grass ready to strike. They’re working on changes to the intersection right now, so it’s all torn up, making it even more dangerous.
A few hundred feet away, on the Beltline, they’re making major changes to the Park Street on-ramps and off-ramps both eastbound and westbound, compounding the issue. When it’s done, it might actually make the Badger Road – Park Street intersection less dangerous and it will most certainly make the Park Street interchange with the Beltline much safer and more navigable.
Anyone who’s anywhere near the Park Street off-ramp from the westbound Beltline on a Saturday in the fall when the Badgers are playing at Camp Randall Stadium knows how far traffic backs up waiting to get off the Beltline to head toward the UW campus.
But the way they’ve got the traffic pattern set for merging with the westbound Beltline from Rimrock Road and merging with the eastbound beltline from HiWay 14 (which becomes Park Street and HiWay 151 under the Beltline overpass) is gonna get somebody killed. This is not a shot at the state’s traffic engineers. Their options in fixing this mess are limited, because of the way the intersection was originally set up, decades ago.
Because the westbound exit to northbound Park Street is completely shut down, those coming into the city from the southern suburbs (like me) are essentially forced to take Rimrock Road to get onto the belt. There’s no “merge lane” or “acceleration ramp” because of the cramped quarters forced by the expansion of the Park Street westbound exit. You merge directly onto the Beltline, and that’s where somebody is going to get killed.
A week ago today, I forgot about the horrid mess merging the belt from Rimrock, and got there not too long after a wreck. It was easy to see what happened. A woman driving a small green car must have attempted to merge onto the belt, lost her nerve and slammed on the brakes, and got rear-ended by a truck behind her. You’ve got to trust that the person in the vehicle ahead of you will actually merge onto the belt, because you’re busy craning you neck over your left shoulder to see what’s coming at you on the belt. And, since there’s so little warning to drivers on the westbound belt that a real mess is coming up (how about one or two “merge left” signs between South Towne Drive and John Nolen Drive???), the outside lane of the belt becomes a bumper-car chute. It’s the same nightmare with the merge to the eastbound belt from Park Street.
My new route now takes me up Rimrock and over the Beltline, past the Revenue Palace and the Coliseum, to John Nolen Drive…where I make a right turn, backtrack half a mile, and enter the westbound belt from John Nolen. Then, I merge as far left as possible, to keep my distance from vehicles entering the belt from Rimrock. It takes longer, but gives me a better chance of remaining alive.
I hope they get the Park Street interchanges fixed before somebody gets killed.