Another Boston delight

Writing this weblog for a few months now has given me the opportunity to consider the root of why we all drive so bad around here. Some of it comes from years and years of selfish drivers begetting more selfish drivers, but I would guess a large part comes from the road design.

Since most of the main roads around here, except highways, are at least 100 years or more old. Some were the first roads of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Those old roads can be forgiven for their windy, hilly and narrow layouts. But there wasn't any desire to create new roads designed to carry traffic efficiently, except perhaps in the past 20 years. That has left us with narrow roads, especially in Boston, that are one way for one part and the opposite way for another (ever drive in the South End or in parts of Brookline?). As Boston expanded and larger lots in the streetcar suburbs were subdivided, there wasn't any rhyme or reason to their layout. It's probably just what would allow the most houses under the zoning rules.

Even the highways around here give their designers a bad name. Some of the more recently built highways, like the southern portion of Route 495 from Franklin to Route 25, Route 24 and even the Mass. Pike and the new underground section of Route 93, show there was some thought to how drivers access and egress these roads.

But then there are those parts that are reminders of bad planning gone worse. Some include the narrow and windy stretch of Route 128 from Peabody to the sea, or the interchanges along Route 128 and Route 3, where the entrance ramp and the exit ramp share a lane under a bridge. The same goes for the interchange at Route 93 and 128 in Reading. Ugh.

To me, the worst offender of all, is the lane drop. I can think of three right off the top. Route 3 South in Weymouth. Route 128 North in Peabody. Route 128 South in Wellesley. All three drop off in the middle of the road. There are signs, but who reads signs?

The Wellesley lane drop will be fixed someday when MassHighway adds a fourth lane to Route 128 in both directions from Wellesley to Route 24. That project is already underway in Westwood and Dedham, but it's going to take about 10 years to complete. Big surprise.

The other two, well, my bet is that they are here to stay. The Weymouth lane drop gets a reprieve during rush hour when people can drive in the breakdown lane all the way down to Marshfield. That's helpful, but the breakdown lane just becomes a right-hand high-speed lane. As for the one in Peabody or some town near it, I don't know why the lane doesn't drop at the exit a few hundred feet before it. All I know is, I make sure I leave enough room for the inevitable jerk who takes the open lane to speed down it only to find out it's ending abruptly and he has to merge.


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