Wednesday, December 28, 2005
The worst intersection in the City of Chicago
The City of Chicago is an old city. After the great fire the city was re-laid out in a grid, with streets running north / south and east / west centered on the corner of Madison and State.
There are very few streets on an angle in Chicago, but boy do they cause a mess in traffic. Major diagonal streets on the North side are Clark, Lincoln, and Elston.
This simple graphic shows the intersection of Damen (North / South), Fullerton (East / West) and Elston (diagonal).
This diagram really doesn't do the intersection justice. See that little "triangle" just north of the Popeye's restaurant? There are cars stuck in there on all 3 sides. And when it is your time to go and turn left, you "blast" out because their green light is delayed which allows you to go first, although this isn't posted anywhere (how about a sign like "Oncoming traffic has shorter green").
To make things even crazier, there is a Popeye's restaurant on the corner. You can't get to the Popeye's off Fullerton, you need to go in off Damen. Someone definitely has it written on their tombstone "I died trying to make a left turn across traffic into Popeye's at the corner of Damen, Fullerton and Elston" because I have seen insane mayhem many times as people try to cut across traffic all for chicken. The Popeye's is off Fullerton on the south side of the intersection (south of Damen).
This view is looking North while heading west on Fullerton (yes, I almost did get killed trying to take photos at this nutty intersection). You can see how Elston is whizzing by at a diagonal with a little island out there for desperate pedestrians. This photo was taken far away from rush hour, because at that time for a bonus round it becomes gridlock in all directions.
This photo shows the traffic looking south on Damen. As soon as I took this I was struck by how damn ugly the intersection is, too! At least during Christmas there is a Christmas tree stand on that vacant lot so it looks better and not so barren.
Not shown is the fact that when you are going North on Damen heading towards the intersection (getting off the Kennedy) that is also total gridlock, because the lanes narrow down and there is a store that rents moving trucks that are double parked out in the street to make things even crazier. Also note the hapless pedestrians in the rear view mirror.
I read that there is an effort to fund a study to build an overpass at this site, which is desperately needed. There is a similar intersection at Western but they built an overpass so it works far better. However, knowing how long it takes to get something done here, I wouldn't hold my breath and wait for the situation to improve. Fortuntately, it really can't get worse - gridlock all the time, death defying stunts as people try to turn into Popeye's, and nearly suicidal left turns. What more could you want?