Saturday, July 13, 2019

Freeway Parking Lot

     Despite continuing improvements -- most of which really are improvements, too -- the interstate highway system around and through Indianapolis routinely grinds to a near-halt at rush hour.  My work hours and usual worksite offer a nice view of the evening rush hour on the "inner loop" (not an actual loop, for various reasons) and it's pretty awful.

     Oh, other cities have it worse, and down at stoplight level, if you know your way around, rush hour's not so bad.  But make no mistake: at peak times, highway traffic regularly slows to a crawl.

     When I took Friday afternoon off to go to the Indianapolis Hamfest and Tam wanted to go along, I asked her to be the exit timekeeper: "We need to be headed towards the gate by four."

     She kept close track; after a break while she took pictures of a classic TransAm in the parking area, we were in my saunamobile and headed for the gate about a quarter after four, and navigating our way around I-465 minutes later.

     Tam was minding the exits; that stretch of 465 grows to five or six lanes across, which are then peeled off in a series of "Exit Only" lanes, one after another, and being in the wrong one at peak times can be a problem.

     Traffic was moving along briskly -- 70 mph or more in the middle lanes, and yes, it's all posted at 45 to 55.  I had swung out to get around a truck in the thickening traffic when she told me to start getting over.  Moved over one lane, two--  The traffic ahead suddenly erupted in brake lights and in seconds, we were at 35 miles an hour or less.

     There were occasional gaps and I kept on working my over to the next-to-rightmost lane as exits went by.  Tam had been a little quiet, thinking about something, and then she spoke,

     "From 70 to Castleton, it'll be down to one lane all weekend.  There's some big project."

     "You don't think they got an early start?  Surely not."


     The traffic was getting grim, packing tighter and slowing.  A few impatient souls were slipping across lanes from  gap to gap with NASCAR levels of clearance, which wasn't helping.  I concentrated on getting through it.  Our exit is a long, two lane "collector" that combines two off-ramps and an on-ramp, with a four-lane weaving section in the middle of the run.  I was in the innermost of the two right lanes, so we should be okay, right?


     Tam: "Bobbi!  We're missing our exit!"

     I had forgotten: only one lane peels off, splitting into two immediately.  Luckily, three cars to our right had taken the farthest-right lane as soon as possible, leaving a good-sized opening.  I checked the mirrors, glanced to my right, and hit the gas, making the exit at the last possible second, trespassing only a little over the white line.

     Freeway driving!  You can have it.


Blackwing1 said...

Mpls/St. Paul has the same situation where the freeways have become linear parking lots. This megalopolis is bisected in both horizontal and vertical axes by I-35 and I-94. We have the I-494 and I-694 loop around the cities (in a permanent state of corporate welfare/construction). I-35 splits into an east and west version just north and south of the loop.

MN-DOT in conjunction with the feds have decided to completely re-do the major intersection of I-35W and I-94 just south of downtown Minneapolis, and have closed the connection between them for north-to-west, and east-to-south for 5 years. Since we live about five miles south of downtown this means our only routes to get out of the city to the west include a five-mile detour to the south, and take one of two different east-west routes to one of three north-south routes.

The posted detour to go around the city rather than the major freeway involves the I-494 loop on the northwest corner.

They just closed an 8-mile stretch of that for the weekend. They are now detouring the detour. 100% of the eastbound I-94 traffic is to be funneled onto a 2-lane divided highway that was overcrowded BEFORE it became a detour. My assumption is that the loop will become impassible around 9:00 AM this morning (Saturday) and stay a linear parking lot until 5:00 AM Monday when they re-open the closure.

All I can envision are the MN-DOT bureaucrats rolling on the floor laughing as they contemplate their assigned work (by Metro Council's former head Ted Mondale...yes, same family) who is in charge of freeway development, who I heard in a meeting state, "Our objective is to make the freeway system so bad that mass transit looks like a good idea." This from the people in charge of improving it.

waepnedmann said...

I live in a rural area.
I am not used to rush hour freeway traffic in big cities.
Years back I had to go to training in the SFO Bay Area.
Class got out at 1700.
I got on the freeway home and almost immediately it turned into a six lane parking lot.
After moving about three miles in an hour I transitioned to another road. The traffic sped up to about 45 MPH.
I saw a white Mercedes limo coming up behind me. It passed me and continued through traffic without braking and smoothly moved from lane to lane around slower vehicles and was soon out of sight.
Impressive driving skills by a professional driver.

It is good to have a navigator on board while an unfamiliar city.