Monday, June 29, 2009

Highway Expansion Will Not Save Us From Idiots Behind The Wheel

I found myself stuck in a major traffic jam Saturday on I-894 approaching the Zoo Interchange from the south.

Turns out that to the north, a couple arguing lost control of their car and caused an horrific crash that led to the fiery death of a motorcyclist.

Somewhere in the record-keeping section of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, this grisly crash will be counted as a fatality on a stretch of highway set for reconstruction and widening, with all the data thrown out there to support new and wider lanes.

But most fatalities on the road are caused by speed, alcohol or other factors tied to driver inattentiveness or indifference, and spiffy new lanes and perfect pavement only makes these menaces more dangerous.

Twice in the last two weeks - - once on Madison's beltline heading west and once in the gaudy new Marquette Interchange - - I was nearly sideswiped by motorists on my right who changed lanes without looking.

My evasive maneuver in Madison was so abrupt that the next day, a broken axle showed up in my steering that sent me to the repair shop for more than $600 in repairs.

I am still amazed that we avoided a collision.

And I find the new Marquette more hazardous for motorists who want to exit westbound at 26th or 35 St. as they have to move quickly to the right into traffic coming from behind coming downhill from high ramps feeding in from the Highrise Bridge or I-43 south.

The new Marquette induces speeding - - smooth pavement, gravity, the perception that the whole machine's alleged efficiencies are there to make your trip faster have created a Death Valley in the interchange just past the Marquette University campus.

It's the stupidity factor that kills people on the highways, and I am convinced that WisDOT's rebuilding and redesigning schemes only make idiots more dangerous.

And if WisDOT wants to pour resources into redesign, it should start with changing the way it manages public meetings and trains the people who run them.

Squashing public discussion and the free flow of information about highway expansion as WisDOT did at last week's Zoo Interchange public 'hearing' is the management equivalent of mindless, aggressive driving.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Make something idiot-proof and they'll build a better idiot."

It applies to software design and roads.