TXDOT paints stripe on Spur 527 suicide merge

On Thursday, KHOU-11's Jeremy Desel followed up on Chronicle Move It columnist Rad Sallee's earlier reporting on the dangerous merge on the reopened Spur 527.

Desel reports that TXDOT actually broke out some paint in an effort to make the dangerous entrance safer:

A sound wall built to protect the nearby neighborhood makes it difficult for merging drivers to see each other, even causing one driver to yell to 11 News, "This is dangerous".

Another called it a "suicide merge".

"It looks a little bit different than what they are used to," said Quincy Allen, TxDOT.

Quincy Allen is the TXDOT Project engineer for the Spur 527.

In the 10 days the ramp has been open he has heard the complaints, which was enough to get him to reevaluate.

"Some folks it appeared that you had to make an immediate merge. So we put the stripe there to improve that merge," he said.

It's a 100-foot stripe aimed at aiming drivers in the right direction.

"It's really difficult to figure out where you are going anymore," said one driver.

But the biggest problem says TXDOT isn't the signs, or the paint, or the wall, but drivers who are already on the spur.

"Looking at this it looks maybe like a freeway. But the speed limit on the spur in this location is 35 miles an hour."

For engineers to blame drivers for being on a road and behaving like drivers is kind of ridiculous. The fact is, that merge has terrible sight lines, is too short, and is (therefore) dangerous.

I had a look at that 100-foot stripe yesterday. It seems like it might be shorter than 100 feet, although I wasn't about to stand in traffic to measure it! But even assuming it is 100 feet -- just think how quickly that likely Texans first-round pick Reggie Bush covers 30 yards when running full speed. That's at one Reggiepower. Now imagine how fast a heavy hunk of metal with an engine of anywhere from 100 to 300 horsepower can cover that 30 yards. And just for fun, make it impossible to see the rest of the field (keeping with our football analogy) for the last ten yards or so, with lots of traffic (linebackers and safeties!) just waiting to put the big hit on.

That's just scary. And on such an expensive project, it's really an unfortunate oversight.

Even TXDOT's designated apologist Janelle Gbur is going to have trouble convincing people that reality is not reality, and the suicide merge really is just fine.

In further Spur 527 news, the Southwest Freeway from Shepherd to the Spur is closed this weekend, while TXDOT prepares to reopen the other side of the Spur. That should help immensely with the Southwest Freeway/Downtown traffic bottleneck drivers have experienced since the Spur reconstruction began.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 03/25/06 08:30 AM | Print |

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