Thursday, April 3, 2014

Five Corners, Part 5: The scooch and the damage done

In post from a few days ago called Five Corners Futility, I made a statement which I will now explain further.  I said, "I tend to look at right-of-way segments not the way they should be driven, but the way they actually are driven"

This is an example of what I mean by that.  This is FM 518 westbound at Highway 3.  I was driving this time (not my teenager), and I stopped at this red left-turn light. I am presenting an un-cropped picture here as taken from my driver's seat.  What you can tell is that my left wheels were well over into the yellow painted exclusion zone, just as this pick-up truck's wheels were also over.

The road is not really supposed to be driven the way both of us were driving it here, but the left-turn lane for Highway 3 southbound is only half as long as it would need to be in order to accommodate normal traffic.  What happens as a result is that drivers naturally choose the lesser of evils - left-turners universally scooch over like that is so that we don't block the center westbound lane of FM 518 because through-traffic proceeds on green even as accumulated left-turners are forced to remain stopped on red.

FM 518 is so inefficient and so under-designed for its carrying purpose that it's just plain *stupid* to block half the traffic merely because that left turn lane is so woefully short.  Therefore, everybody scooches over like this so that traffic can continue to pass.  It's the neighborly thing to do.  And if you watch this intersection, you'll see that it's universally driven like this.  That's the net result of collective informal driver negotiation.  Nobody objects to this, and I personally have not witnessed any significantly elevated risk because of it.  No left-turner is dumb enough to scooch so far as to put their tires into the oncoming east-bound lane, for instance.

In sum, this is not necessarily what the original engineering foresaw here, but the driver adaptation actually works better than what was intended.  There are only two choices - either we scooch, or FM 518 effectively reduces to one westbound lane at this location.  
In sharp contrast, this is what happens instead when concrete prevents people from scooching in order to naturally accommodate other drivers on the road for maximum efficiency:
FM 2094 eastbound traffic at the FM 518 jog now squanders about one third to one half of its green light to lane congestion because drivers can no longer scooch in this area.  The red arrow points to a left-turner who cannot access the lane here because the lane is way, way too short and already full of cars and the new concrete blocks the previous open space.  The middle lane occupied by me and this dry cleaning van was blocked for most of the green light.because of that, whereas it would not have been blocked before the concrete.    
If you've perceived Five Corners to be getting slower and slower lately, this is one of the reasons - the full effects of the concrete are now coming home to roost.  It's happening because we've been effectively reduced to one lane moving for a big part of each green light.  It won't matter how well the lights are ultimately synchronized if the lanes are this significantly undersized to start with.  If left-turners can't squeeze over because of concrete obstructions, they are going to block through traffic - it's that simple.  And how would that possibly constitute a mobility improvement?  

I'm still waiting for answers from League City on what's going on here (they know I've asked).  It's an even more important question than it may first seem.  On my first Five Corners post, someone commented with a link to this page, which discusses in general terms the "access management" project scope.  The corresponding CIP report (2014 Q1) doesn't give any detail as to design, but it does provide a map that I personally dread:
Crummy resolution, but Centerpointe is in the lower section of the grab and that red squiggle suggests that they might also be planning to concrete up the Highway 3 intersection, which means that we would also effectively reduce to one lane westbound at that intersection, too.  In other words, the functional scooch by me and the white pick-up truck in the pic above would also become a thing of the past.  
I'll leave you with an excerpt from that CIP.  I converted to JPG because Blogger won't allow hosting of other content formats such as PDF.  It'll be a bit blurry as a result.  It doesn't describe the scope of the design, but it does indicate that we're spending about two million dollars on this thing.  I await with bated breath someone's explanation as to why that makes even partial sense.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'm forced to moderate comments because the spammers have become too much for me to keep up with. If you have a legitimate comment, I will post it promptly. Sorry for the inconvenience.