Monday, February 21, 2011

An old and scary highway

The day I stopped by Chinatown I was a passenger (not a driver, thankfully) on one of California's oldest highways, which is now part of State Route 110.  It dates back to the 1940's at least, when cars were fewer in number, and way slower.

I found this highway terrifying.  This is what one of the on-ramps looks like:

Take note.  The vehicle in front of us on the on-ramp is stopped.  At a stop sign.  There is no merge lane at the end of this very tight ramp, and traffic, all 5 lanes of it (one direction, 10 lanes all together) is going around 65 mph.  Traffic is usually heavy on L.A. highways, but even when it's "light" that's not always a good thing, as it can speed things up to 75 mph.

Below is a view of an exit ramp on the same road from above (I was visiting Elysian park with a friend, and the highway bisects one portion of the park).  You can't see it in the photo, but there is almost no deceleration lane.  Note that there are no shoulders on the road either.

That ramp is incredibly tight, and as soon as you are around that corner you're on a residential street.

Here is exhibit #3:

See those ramps on the left of the photo, just as the road exits the tunnel?  That's an off-ramp and an on-ramp.  Immediately you are on a residential street on exiting the highway (right behind that tree!)  No deceleration lane on the exit or acceleration lane on the on-ramp.  Just stop and wait at the on-ramp for a pause in traffic (but not too long... you won't get one!), then you go from 0 to 65 mph as fast as you can.

The only good thing about this road is that no trucks are allowed on this ancient portion of highway.  One of the reasons for that is that they can't exit on these ramps.  I read something on the internet about a truck getting stuck when it got on the road by accident and tried to exit-- it couldn't make the turn on the tight ramp.  I don't know how they eventually got it out of there, I guess they'd have to stop traffic and back it up onto the highway again.

Supposedly there is talk of preserving this road as a historic landmark.  I don't know what I think of that. It is an interesting road, to see what they looked like back in the 1940's, although I bet they had shoulders then that have since been taken over as additional lanes.  Some folks even find it fun to drive, but not me.  No margin for error, with impossible manoeuvres required, at speeds it was never designed for.

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