Tuesday, March 15, 2005

There's gold in them thar roads!

I can't think of any other explanation but gold mining* for the continual digging up, resealing, digging up and so forth at the corner of McDonald Road and Tatum Boulevard here in Phoenix. In the 9 months since I started working for my current employer there have been very few occasions when that corner isn't being worked on. I really hope I've misread the signs; the sign I saw implied that the current works will not be completed until August!

It's an easy enough drive TO work; down Tatum toward Camelback Mountain, drop a right through the roadworks onto McDonald and then curve gently to the left onto 44th Street. But coming back the other way is a real pain in the bum! Traffic turning left onto Tatum from McDonald stretches back at least a kilometre. Problem is there's really no easy alternative; I could go further west to 32nd Street and approach Tatum from Lincoln Drive but that's a left turn from hell as well. For the past week I've been going to the east and taking 68th Street but it's still double the travel time compared to no roadworks.

Workmates have suggested I take the freeway**; but to tell the truth freeways here in Phoenix scare the hell out of me! I'm not comfortable doing the kinds of speeds one sees there. If you try and sit in the left hand lane the pressure is on to do 75 MPH or greater (this in a 65 MPH speed limit). Middle lane isn't much better. (I drive a Kia Rio and all those trucks sitting on your arse are intimidating). Right hand lane? Freeway designers here seem compelled to provide an entry and an exit for every single major road, which puts such exits and entries about a mile apart. There's a constant flow of traffic swapping lanes from the rightmost lane to the entry/exit.

In contrast, the freeways I learned to drive on have entries and exits placed much further apart; the expectation is that you'll take the nearest exit and then use surface*** streets to get to your destination. It makes for much less fludity in the outer lane.

There's a related problem methinks. It's almost a given that, listening to the traffic reports on the radio, you'll hear of a 'rollover' accident somewhere on the freeway system. I know why! All too often I've seen someone driving along on the inner lane and suddenly cross three or four lanes to get to that exit an eighth of a mile ahead. Bad planning? Almost certainly. But with that many exits I've also committed the sin of complacency and suddenly realised that I want to exit at Thunderbird and there's the sign telling me it's a hundred yards ahead. If you're in the inner lane it's an impossible manouver yet so many try to do it!

You'd think that with the next exit less than a mile away the average driver would, having missed the desired exit, take the next one and come back? Doesn't seem to happen.

So I don't do freeways here. *shrug*

*this joke is stolen from the Goon Show!

**taking the freeway would almost double my mileage. The 101 is a long way east of where I work and it's definitely the long way home.

***silly expression but one hears it all the time; last time I looked most freeways are also on the surface.

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