Motorists complain about Spur 527 ramp; TXDOT spins

One component of the Spur 527 reconstruction has now opened, and motorists are already complaining to the Chronicle's Rad Sallee about the poor design:

The news is better on Spur 527, which links the southwest side of downtown with the Southwest Freeway. Its outbound lanes reopened last week after being closed since February 2004 for rebuilding. And by the end of the month, the inbound lanes should be open too, TxDOT said.

Not everyone is pleased with the result, however. Patti Roth writes that the outbound entrance ramp to the rebuilt spur from Milam and Richmond is "so short it's nearly impossible to merge on."

"Not only that, you're coming up to the spur and it's coming down to meet the ramp, so there is no way to see anyone as you're merging," she said.

Stu MacPherson has a similar warning. "I used the new on-ramp to U.S. 59 South at Milam and Alabama for the first time Monday afternoon and nearly lost my life!" he wrote.

"The ramp spills out onto the main spur ... with absolutely no merge lane and zero visibility of the traffic already on the spur. Had I been 1 second later, the Suburban doing 70 mph in my (our) lane would have obliterated me," he said.

Sallee's correspondents are right. I stopped using the lane after one use, and now go out of my way to enter the Spur from Smith, because the Milam entrance ramp to the spur is effectively a suicide merge. There is simply no excuse for TXDOT to have done such a poor job with that ramp.

Of course, that doesn't stop TXDOT's designated apologist from spinning:

TxDOT spokeswoman Janelle Gbur said she believes both readers are talking about the same ramp, which comes off Milam between Alabama and Richmond, and she acknowledged it is a tight merge.

TxDOT will monitor the site for problems and verify that it complies with required design standards, Gbur said. "But it is not our practice to start piling on modifications within a couple of days after opening a new facility," she said.

Gbur added that project engineer Quincy Allen inspected the ramp and agreed that because the spur has been raised about 9 feet and has higher guardrails than before, it lacks the visibility that drivers are used to on entrance ramps.

Gbur disagreed that there is no merge lane. She said a "reasonable" distance is allowed for entering traffic to merge."But because of the limited visibility, motorists may feel they have no time at all," she said.

Translation: Until someone dies, we're really not that concerned with what mere motorists think of our edifice, and we'll continue to put forth our version of reality, where limited visibility and a suicide merge are "reasonable."

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 03/20/06 12:46 PM | Print |

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