Motoring Serendipity - In A Bad Way

I was reading this fine thread and felt like bitching, but realized that my specific complaint didn’t quite fit the topic. This space is more for generalized whining/outrage.

Pretend for the moment that you are some dumbassed sucker who works in downtown Albany, and you just got on I-787 Northbound to get to I-90 Eastbound to get over the Patroon Island Bridge to get your stupid, lazy ass home after work (see map. Pretend further that it’s rush hour and you just got on 787 at, I don’t know, the Madison Ave/Port of Albany exit. Just by way of example, you see.

You would find yourself in the right lane of a two lane highway. Fine and dandy. However, within the next half mile you will pass four more onramps, some of which merge in normally, and some of which become new lanes of their own. By the time you pass the Clinton Ave exit, you are now in the second-from-left lane of a five lane highway unless you’ve merged right sometime in there (which you can’t do safely because of all the other suckers getting on from those exits).

You now have approximately half a mile to get your stupid ass into the far right lane so you can make your exit to cross the bridge. This problem is compounded by all the people who want to do the same thing you do encountering all the people in the right two lanes who really want to be in one of the left three lanes so they can continue on North.

This situation, bad as it is, is made infinitely worse by the relative handful of knuckleheads who may be charitably called the Worst Drivers In The Northeast Outside Of Downtown Boston, And Who Might Be Contenders There. Not that the rest of us are winning any awards.

You know these people. They have frustrated NASCAR dreams and see just this kind of state of affairs as an opportunity to practice for the road course at Watkins Glen. Weaving in and out between lanes, deliberately movng right to pass and “merging” into spaces that aren’t really there, but will be providing the folks on their rear quarters have good brakes. It looks like the thought process is “if I downshift and redline it and inch over a bit that guy will back off and I can just slide in there,” but I know damned well it’s actually “There was a farmer had a dog…”, or possibly a carrier hum.

Just to complete the racing experience, they are usually simulating consultations with their pit crews by yapping on their cell phones.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe their real fantasies involve becoming stunt drivers for such Hollywood classics as To Live and Die in LA. Dammit people, that movie is at least twenty years old, and it sucked then too.

What to you got?

I’ll see your I-787 Albany, and raise you Rochester’s Can of Worms The old one, take a look at the lower picture. I-490 enters at the bottom of the pic, slightly to the right, then going off into the woods. I-590 enters on the upper left and exits on the right. In between, the roads join, I-490 from the left, I-590 from the right, and split again 1/4 mile later, but with the sides switched. Thus, if you want to (horror of horrors) stay on the same road, you have to weave through a few lanes of crowded highway traffic, just like everybody else on your road, and in the opposite direction of everyone on the other road. All within a 1/4 mile or so.

The new interchange looks like someone barfed up a spaghetti dinner.

Oh, God, I remember that.

“Hey, I think we’re on 590 now.”

“What? I thought we were on 490.”

“So did I, but we’re on 590 now.”

“What the fuck happened?”

“How the fuck should I know? You’re driving.”

Living in the Albany area as well, how could I come up with anything worse than what the OP has? (Although I don’t generally mind that exchange, mainly because I rarely drive it during traffic time). But I do have one - in Schenectady/Rotterdam, for several miles 890 EAST and 7 WEST travel together.

I was never so pissed. I had to get to traffic court, too, and I was getting lost because of the stupid highway. :mad:

There is a reason that the various interchanges to the east of the SF Bay Bridge are called The Maze. For one example that has turned my hair gray on the rare occasions when I have had to navigate it, if you come from Walnut Creek you have to cross all lanes of freeway traffic twice, from the far right to the far left, and then back again*, to get to the bridge toll plaza. I’ve never actually tried this at rush hour - it’s bad enough with normal traffic.

*I may have this backwards, it’s been a while.

I completely understand your 787 rant. I used to work in downtown Albany when I first moved here and I hated that interchange.

Now, I work off New Karner Road and I have to travel I-90 from Nassau to I-87. The problem with that interchange is that I have to get over almost immediately or else I have to exit at Wolf Rd. and some of the assholes who need to get off there won’t let me over.

Before I even get to that part, I encounter the Massachusetts* cars that are coming in to Albany on I-90 who always seem to be late for work because, while I’m already doing 75 in a 65 MPH zone, they are flying past me, weaving in and out of traffic without regard to which lane they are passing me in.

There are times that I get home from work and I want to scream about the commute. I’ve lived in Raleigh, NC and driven in Chicago, and Albany is pretty close to Chicago when it comes to crazy drivers. The Exit 24 toll plaza free-for-all was a good warm-up for the Chicagoland tolls.

*Not all MA drivers are like this, but if I see a car coming up on me pretty fast, it’s ususally a MA plate.


Here in Virginia we have the infamous Mixing Bowl, referred to officially as the Springfield Interchange, where I-95, I-495, and I-395 meet. In a normal jurisdiction, this would just be where a road crosses a beltway and has a “business” and “through” artery. Here in the armpit of DC, it’s a nightmare.

For years, the problem was simple: people entering from the left at low speed will need to cross several high-speed through lanes to reach a braking-to-a-crawl exit lane, and vice-versa. Thus you have through drivers trying to blast through at 75 in a 55 zone without anyone getting in front of them, and people darting into their lanes and braking to try to merge into virtually stopped traffic. From both flanks.

Oh, and the signage was terrible. “No need to put signs in advance; people can look way up and read overhead signs while somone darts in front of them and slams on the brakes,” some engineer must have decided.

Finally enough funding was found to either build a large European country from the ground up, or fix this interchange, and someone decided to do the interchange.

And so the massive project began.

Estimates of completion for the project, so large it would have been built in a year in 1955 or six weeks in 1944, run from 5 to 7 to 10 years, depending on whom you’re talking to. Remember this is just three roads meeting, not World War II.

Guess how many ramps and “flyers” will need to be built? JUST for the interchange, not the surrounding beltway area? Hint: it’s three roads meeting. So, uh…six? Twelve maybe?

According to one proud VDOT announcement, fifty-one.

Honest to God, where’s that 51st ramp going, anyway? Is this some kind of multidimensional tesseract where you can take the wormhole for Alpha Centauri if you keep right?

Once we HAVE all 51 ramps and flyovers set up, what on earth kind of signage will be able to explain it to bewildered tourists trying to reach our nation’s captial at 75 miles per hour? Squint fast, you have four seconds:


1: Springfield Road East
2: Springfield Road Westbound No Reentry
3: Beijing
4: I-x95 Guess Your Best
46: Manhattan
47: Manhattan Transfer
48: Manhattan Project
49: Upper Eastern Northern Virginia via I-toldyouso
51: All Traffic

Disclaimer: I kid, I kid. I know no one from a given direction will actually have to read ALL 51 ramps and flyovers. Heck, they’ll be lucky to find ANY signage. The VDOT doesn’t believe in informed decisions.


I know that area well. I got lost once coming up 95 trying to get on 495. There were no signs at all and I ended up in the wrong part of town, at midnight, needing gas.

I also know how the OP feels. Everyday I come around 495 in DC, around what they call the “S-curves”. The speed limit is 55, the corners are made to be done at 55, except everyone is so scared to go around them, if you’re lucky you can get behind the people who, with no one in front of them they slow from 70 to 30. So there’s always traffic there, and the only reason is because people are afraid of the corners. I know they can be done safely at 70 in an Escort since I do it all the time.

We’ve also got the fun busses, stupid fuckers. They will stay in the far left lane until the very last moment and cut across four lanes of traffic to get off. However, because the exit backs up a bit they force themselves to the front. I’ve almost been hit a time or two because of them. And the reason they give for breaking the law? We’re on a schedule, well so am I and that includes living until my 70s.

I lived in Philadelphia for a few years. I drove a taxi, shit I’m not afraid of any traffic.

However, I remember when they completed the 676 to I76 exchange around 1989. It’s a 90 degree 30mph to full speed left hand merge. WTF?

A columnist in the paper called it the “merge or die.”

Sailboat already brought up the Mixing Bowl, so I’ll mention the I-196 & US 131 interchange in Grand Rapids, MI. That’s 196 going E/W and 131 N/S; note how the offramps from 196 to 131 are pretty much in the same place, on opposite sides of the highway. We weren’t prepared to exit left to go north, then move all the way over to the right lane in order to get on Leonard from 131.

You see, here in Northern Ireland we could never have anything as complicated as US highways, but nonetheless we have drivers itching to throw themselves across several lanes of traffic on a whim. So I’ll tag along the bottom of this rant.

One of the benefits of British rule has been our fine motorways, only in recent years bettered by our cousins in the Republic. Coming into Belfast from the North, there are five lanes of clear, clean, smooth, flat, straight motorway, running for at least a mile and a half if not two. The idea being that motorists have plenty of time to safely change lanes, leaving the rest of us to carry on in a straight line.

Now I honestly don’t know why, but someone told most of the drivers coming out of Belfast that lane changes must be made in the first 100m of motorway, across as many lanes as possible, without indicators. Hence the madly wandering reps in their Mondeos and Vectras swanning over and back, zigzagging like mad so they can enjoy the rest of the mile and a half section of five lane motorway :rolleyes:

It was during this stupidity that I got rearended by a ginger haired twerp running his friends to school in a bright yellow Ford Focus (not a car to miss in your rear view mirror as it skids into your arse) Just coming onto the multi lane motorway and in no way late for school, he drove into me as I was held up by the traffic up to its usual tricks. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected anything less from someone who then professed not to know what number to ring for an ambulance :dubious:

I haven’t been back to Boston since they “finished” the Big Dig, but I remember how confusing it was before. You could be following along 93 (I think) peacefully, and suddenly end up on a bridge. WTF? And it was sooooooo hard to get back or navigate if you got even a little off track.

Oh, boy. Where do I start?

We’ve got the Cross Bronx Expressway, famous for always having nasty traffic (even at 2AM on a Tuesday) for no reason. It’s also famous for having signs that tell you to keep left for major bridges and then expecting you to somehow cut across all those clogged lanes of traffic to get to the Whitestone or Throgs Neck within, oh, say 500 feet. If the Cross Bronx were able to talk, it would say (with a heavy Nu Yawk accent) “Keep left, asswipe…Keep left…Oh yeah, there goes yer fuckin’ EXIT! Sorry, pal. And God helpya if ya try ta make a U-Turn in this traffic.”

We’ve also got the wonderful interchange where the Cross Island Parkway and the Long Island Expressway meet. Despite taking over a decade to “streamline” this monstrosity, it still sucks, requiring people getting off the expressway and onto the parkway to cut across solid lines of traffic (people getting ON the expressway). Probably one of the most effective fender-bender magnets around.

I spent a week on the Cross Bronx Expressway one morning.

My favorite thing about the LIE is those oh-so-helpful traffic advisory signs on the overpasses. It doesn’t really matter what the actual message is - the gist is always the same: “You’re screwed”. Once I read a warning that traffic was backed up to hell and gone and that I should switch to the Northern State. I dutifully got off the LIE and onto the Northern State like a good little boy, just in time to catch a warning that traffic was backed up to hell and gone and I should switch to the LIE.


And, in part of The Maze, 80 East and 580 West are the same road. And, of course, which lanes go where isn’t marked until it’s almost time for them to split (this may have changed- I avoid this area whenever possible, and have had the good fortune to not have to drive there for a couple of years).

I remember the “Can of Worms”. Yuck! I believe you can still find it as a case study in Civil Engineering (or whatever) of how NOT to design a freeway interchange.

Doesn’t help any that 580 West is really a north-bound road for much of its length.

Actually, most of our freeways are screwed up that way. 101 South is actually going east through San Jose. 780 North goes west. The list goes on.

For all of our odd freeways, I’m truly glad we don’t have roundabouts like this one. Those little bulls-eyes are five tiny roundabouts within one large roundabout. There’s one even worse that I can’t lay hands on - think it was in Scotland or England and was two concentric counter-rotating roundabouts.

Don’t knock the Swindon “Magic Roundabout” it is the onlt road that is easier to drive while stoned than whilst sober.

Oooo, we’ve got one of those here. I hate it, it must be the most nerve racking on-ramp I’ve driven. There’s also a stretch of road where right after the right line merges left, there’s a merging on-ramp from the right. During rush-hours it can back traffic up miles.

I haven’t been up that way in a couple of decades but I remember making trips from Putnam County down to JFK and some expressway near the airport that went from three lanes down to a single lane ramp. What a mess!