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And you thought Springfield traffic was bad

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Proving I spare absolutely no effort in my research for this column, I turn to Road and Track magazine for a report on a federal traffic study. According to the study, Los Angeles has the worst traffic congestion in the United States.

This unflattering title is based on the fact that L.A. roads and highways carry 50 percent more traffic than planned when they were built. And you think Springfield traffic is a bummer!

Don't ask me where Springfield ranked; I don't know. Some people less kind and considerate than I might say there's no way to know how much more traffic our streets are carrying than originally planned, because no one had a plan (or a clue) at the time. Plan, what plan?

Of course, a gentle, loving, politically correct soul such as I wouldn't say such a cruel thing.

Although L.A. residents can thrust a forefinger in the air and shout "We're No. 1 in traffic congestion," Washington, D.C., is even a worse city in which to drive.

The study reports that individual motorists in the nation's capitol spend 82 hours a year stuck in traffic jams. This isn't a typo. Drive for a year in D.C. traffic, and spend 82 hours waiting in traffic jams.

I know, Springfield traffic at times defies conventional logic and wisdom, but no way do we cool our heels 82 hours a year. However, give us a few more years, and we might make it.

Let's be truthful, the most brilliant traffic engineer in captivity can't do much to curb the dreaded Springfield driver: The one who runs red lights, fails to use turn signals, slows traffic by not keeping up with traffic flow and using both lanes when turning from one four lane street onto another, and generally obviates whatever traffic engineers actually might have had in mind when planning streets and traffic control devices.

Springfield officials aren't waiting to catch up with D.C. They are asking to hire a consultant to prepare a strategic traffic plan in conjunction with the state Highway and Transportation Commission. This action is apparently necessary in order to qualify for a $2.5 million federal grant to help fund an advanced, high-tech traffic control system.

If ever a city needed an advanced system, Springfield is it. As an expert on Springfield traffic (I'm an expert because I drive in it, and I'm alive to tell about it), I have a message for the consultant.

Dear Consultant:

Some advice from one who cares: Don't snicker the first time you see the nightmare at the convergence of East Sunshine, 65 Bypass, Eastgate and Ingram Mill Road. You may wonder who planned this mess; it wasn't planned. It grew like Topsy. Just recommend a six-lane overpass be built to span the quagmire, and go on about your business.

Drive around the city to check out traffic snags. At busy intersections, if two or more complete cycles of a stoplight are required in order to pass through, the system isn't working. The same applies to turn arrows; if traffic backs up beyond the turn lane into the lane for cars going straight, and it takes two or more cycles to get through, something is broke and needs fixed.

This is so simple I'm sure you'll spot it right away: If there is a stoplight at an intersection with no turn arrow, and only one car is able to turn during each cycle, an arrow needs to be installed. (I told you this is simple.) In the event that a turn arrow is in place, but only two or three of the cars waiting can turn before it goes off, the cycle needs to be reworked.

Hopefully, you'll travel 65 Bypass, James River Freeway and I-44. If so, do the sensible thing and recommend that two vehicles exiting and entering these highways at the same time shouldn't be channeled into the same lanes. This may not speed up traffic a whole lot, but it will cut down on funerals.

I wonder. Would it be proper for you to recommend mass lobotomies for those identified as the dreaded Springfield drivers? Probably not. Good luck.

Your Friend,

Rusty Saber

(Joe McAdoo is former chairman of the communication department at Drury College and a Springfield public relations consultant.)

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