Friday, April 2, 2010

Attack of the Interstate Highway System

Although I don't ride my bicycle on the Interstates - obviously - they still affect every trip I make. Atlanta and the State of Georgia chose to run three major highways through the city. I-75 and I-85 run together part of the way, and intersect with I-20 just a few blocks south of downtown Atlanta. They have been widened multiple times, and other limited-access highways have been added over time. This not only impacted the properties and streets that were bulldozed for highway construction, but much of the surrounding street network as well. Roads leading to highway entrance and exit ramps were converted to one-way streets, widened, and given priority over cross streets. Speed limits were raised and city streets were annexed by the state government.

The results are obvious. Scanty traffic barrels down wide, empty roads, which are preserved as a backup system in case the Interstate (almost a mile away) fails. Of course, the city street network is much more robust than the single-corridor highways, and does not need such enormous roads to handle traffic. But I doubt the engineers realize that.
Many streets are nearly vacant at rush hour, which encourages speeding

Elsewhere, road segments suffer from gridlock and congestion - but only for 5 or 10 blocks around the entrance and exit ramps. A cyclist has to fight her way through this mess along with everyone else, but is rewarded with car-free streets on the other side. I encounter at least three of these highway knots on my route to and from work. Most of the bottlenecks cannot be avoided, because all of the alternate routes have been eliminated in highway construction.

It is the most inefficient, stressful, and unsafe system you could possibly imagine.

 Blue Belle shakes her head basket sadly at gridlock near the Williams Street ramps

1 comment:

  1. Funny how there's always money for Highways though, while cycle lanes are cancelled for 'budgetary reasons'.

    Our local town is a small island of such 60's thinking, although fortunately we're surrounded by a mass of more thoughtful towns.