Monday, October 14, 2013

Cheap fix

Over the years, I have occasionally pointed out traffic engineering projects that have led to a significant reduction in motor vehicle crashes. I am convinced by these examples that good engineering is by far the most important factor in crash-reduction. There is a recent change at an intersection along my commuting route that I think is destined to have a dramatic impact.

The location in question is the notorious triple intersection of S. 14th Street, Old Cheney Road, and Warlick Boulevard. I usually refer to it as the Bermuda Triangle. There are lots of traffic conflicts, and it is the scene of many collisions. Many of those crashes are in the red rectangle, where 14th Street traffic headed north must merge with the northeast-bound traffic coming in from the left on Warlick.

Here's what happens several times every year: a northbound driver on 14th ( vehicle A) looks over the left shoulder, and sees traffic approaching in the outside lane of Warlick (vehicle B). Unable to merge at the yield sign, vehicle A slows dramatically or comes to a complete stop. The driver behind him, also looking over his shoulder to assess the possibility of a merge, collides with the stopped or nearly-stopped vehicle A. Back in 2008, I got nailed here myself, when a Dodge Ram pickup lived up to its name, and set my teeth a-chattering.

The fix implemented in August by the Public Works Department involved striping the outside lane of northbound Warlick Blvd. beginning back at Old Cheney Road, thus forcing all the Warlick traffic into the inside lane. This effectively eliminates the need for the northbound 14th Street traffic to stop or slow drastically, and leads to a smooth merge between these two traffic flows. Any drivers that need to change lanes in preparation for turning movements at the next major intersection  have close to a mile to get things sorted out amicably.

It will take awhile for the data to prove my assertion, but as a regular user of this route, I am certain that there will be an immediate and long lasting reduction to the types of rear-end collisions that impacted me and about 100 other motorists in the past decade at the Bermuda Triangle. This will all be accomplished by the application of 50 bucks worth of paint.


Herb said...

As someone who lives less than two miles from that intersection, I agree with your comments. I also would like to add thanks to the engineering folks who decided to put a Yield sign instead of a Stop sign for traffic that is Southbound, going off to the left, to 14th Street. When there was a stop sign there, it may have had the highest percentage of "rolling stops" in any intersection in Lincoln.

While I don't feel I have that much difficulty negotiating roundabouts in Lincoln, I am not sure I am willing to be a fan of the multiple roundabout idea proposed for this intersection. At this time of year, there are so many grain trucks going through 14th/Warlick/Old Cheney, I fear for the clusterbomb that happens when Grandma gets tangled up with Farmer Bob.

Tom Casady said...


I agree, the $50 fix for southbound traffic on 14th (replacing the stop sign with a yield sign) is great. It has already reduced the stacking during rush hour, and people are still getting used to it. What really intrigues me about this is how two very simple and inexpensive changes can dramatically improve things.

Anonymous said...

So are plans for a round a bout being re-examined after the fiasco at 14th and Superior?

Anonymous said...

What seems to be the problem with engineers at times is that they over think things and "can't find the forest for all the trees." Common sense doesn't always prevail with these folks.

Anonymous said...

I pass through that intersection at least twice daily. The thing I find most interesting, is that it now seems that MORE people come to a COMPLETE stop with that yield sign than did when it was an actual stop sign.

I am sure it is just my perception, but it sure seems odd.

Steve said...

It is unfortunate that the most common fixes to traffic accident problems is to do something that impedes the flow of traffic; close a lane, put up a no turn sign, reduce speed limits, ad traffic lights, and the list goes on. Driving is not rocket science; you turn the wheel in the direction you want the car to go, you step on the gas to go faster, you step on the brake to go slower. Right of way laws are, for the most part, quite simple, too. However, even with little or no traffic control devices, people in many third-world countries (countries we consider "backward"), drivers have no where near as many crashes as we do here in the most heavily restricted and controlled driving environment in the world. Common sense is pretty much all it takes to keep from crashing; don't move your vehicle into the path of another if the other car is so close a crash is inevitable!

As I think about it, there seems a parallel with gun control laws and deaths from firearms. It seems we here in the United States love our freedom so much, it has nearly eliminated our respect for the law and other people in general. We do whatever we feel like doing; the other guy be damned. Then, we're incensed when someone else does the same to us.

You see it every day in examples such as this: you're driving down O Street, keeping up with the general flow of traffic, perhaps going a mile or two over the limit at times, when you decide to change lanes. You check your mirror and see another car in the lane you want to move into, but it's well back, so you signal and make your move, only to see the other car right on your bumper once you get over, and the driver shaking his/her fist at you for cutting them off. Then, they roar around you doing 10-20 over the speed limit and flip you off as they go by as if you were the one who didn't know how to drive properly. You end up right next to them at the next light, and you calmly smile at them while they are still seething from the injustice they have just suffered.

Anonymous said...

What do you think of the theory that we should add more roundabouts and force people to learn to drive them? As a regular commuter at 14th and Superior I've noticed traffic is much slower than it was before they reduced the lanes. Travesty!

Tom Casady said...


I think that the complexity of all three submissions for the design of 14th and Warlick were rather sobering. The project is on indefinite hold. In the meantime, I like what they have done with these cheap, simple, interim measures.


I don't get it either. To me it is as easy as pie. There's only one rule you must remember: yield to the traffic already in the roundabout--all the traffic. Period. That's it. Why some people can't deal with this escapes me entirely.

Steve said...

I understand what you and others are saying about yielding to others already in the roundabout, and that is reinforced in a number of places, including the Nebraska Drivers Manual. Still, I am quite certain that the intent and meaning of this statement is for those entering to yield to traffic in the roundabout and coming from the left in such proximity that entering without yielding would result in a crash. It does not mean that when you see someone enter the roundabout to your right, you must wait until they exit before you enter. I have seen people who will wait until there is not one car anywhere in the circle before they will enter, and it would be unfair to criticize them for it since that is the literal interpretation of most of the explanations I've seen in print as to the proper etiquette for a roundabout. The concept of right of way includes understanding that you can enter the intersection (either to cross or turn) as long as you do so without causing other vehicles to brake or steer around you in order to avoid a collision. In the case of a roundabout, you should enter unless other vehicles are so close that they would have to brake or steer around you to avoid a colllision. That would mean that vehicles entering straight across from you, or to your right, do not matter. Only the vehicles immediately to your left, albeit in any lane, are to be of concern.

Anonymous said...

No matter which way you look at it, a yield sign is still a yield sign meaning you "give way" to the person approaching/in the intersection on the cross-street... or in the roundabout's case the person to your left inside the roundabout. If you have to slow or even stop to make sure there isn't a conflict (if you can't judge in advance whether there'll be a conflict or not), all the better.

Anonymous said...

Chief, thanks for taking your time to make everything safer. We will never know or be able to track or give a percentage or a numerical value to everything you have done in your career. It's very obvious that your goal has always been to make things safer. You've dedicated your life to helping everyone and everything. Priceless! Keep up the GREAT WORK.