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?


Frank Borger said...

Not even close. The worst intersection (for about 6 months) in Chicago was Western avenue and Grace Street, circa 1960. Hear me out.

Chicago was trying a stretch of new street dividers on Western, small bumps about 1 foot in diameter and 6 inches high, some with rubber pipes that looked like steel.

This stretch stopped at Grace street, with a zig for a left turn lane and 3 rubber pipes (that looked like steel.)

Southbound, there was just a double yellow line, with no jogs for a left turn lane, so if you're south bound in the inner lane, and keeping the double yellow on your left, suddenly you are aimed at what looks like 3 steel pipes.
So you swerve to miss the pipes, and cut off or hit the guy in the right lane, or come to a screeching halt, and get tail ended by the guy behind you.

I once saw 2 minor accidents and two close ones there. (And this is in the interval of time from when I got to the corner to when the bus came.)

It took the city 6 months to figure out that their wonderful additions were a traffic menace.

Feldspar Goldstein said...

I've lived in Chicago for seven years now and I think three of of them were spent stuck at that intersection. I hate it, but I am always headed that way to the Circuit City or the Home Depot on Elston on the other side.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I noticed the signs that say "oncoming traffic has a longer green" too. They make no sense. If they did, why then would traffic going north on Damen be able to turn left on Elston when the light turns green before the southbound damen traffic (the oncoming traffic!!!)??? It makes no sense. It's like saying, when the light turns green, you'll have to guess when oncoming traffic decides to go...a deathtrap.