Does anybody actually think the recently-constructed Center Street freeway on/off ramp works? Does anyone like it?
Since it was completed earlier this year, I’ve heard nothing but negative reactions to the project and now turns out that it’s not just supremely annoying, it’s actually dangerous. According to my colleague Paige Fieldsted, it’s the site of frequent accidents:
The new interchange is designed to increase capacity and improve access to downtown Provo, but since its inception both Provo police and UHP have seen an increase in accidents. The police reported at least 41 accidents at the intersection since May 1, with three of those happening last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Deputy fire chief Gary Jolley said since Sept. 1 they have responded to eight accidents where medical attention was necessary.
“We feel like it is just a matter of time before there is a fatal accident,” said Provo Detective Brian Taylor, who has been assigned to study the problems at the intersection.
Authorities are trying to fix the problem — and pointlessly blaming accident victims for their own misfortune — but at least one expert doesn’t think it’ll work:
“The concern I have is this is doing nothing to address the root of the problem,” Provo city engineer David Grovers said.
Grovers suggested that the entire design of the intersection may be flawed and that it might be necessary to tear down the interchange and start again sometime in the future. The major design flaw he cited is the U-turn needed for drivers traveling west to get to southbound I-15. The intersection was originally designed to work as a yield so drivers wouldn’t have to wait for a light and cause traffic back-ups, but after several accidents happened UDOT put in a stop sign. However, Grovers said the angle of the travel lane makes it difficult to see if there are cars coming off the freeway.
I’m inclined to agree. My own experiences on this extraordinarily complex stretch of road are so negative that I can’t imagine any small changes fixing the problem. It’s so convoluted, in fact, that UDOT released an instructional video on how to use it:
This project is the kind of thing that seems to have been designed entirely by computers — or computer-like people — who have no real world experience or appreciation for how physical spaces actually work.
The consequences of this ill-conceived project are dramatic. It’s costing taxpayers money — for construction, maintenance, and rebuilding — and, apparently, it’s now costing blood as well.
And of course, this project also made it nearly impossible to bike from east Provo to west Provo, including to the airport, without taking a lengthy detour.
In any case, the point emerging from Paige’s article about accidents only confirms what most people already knew intuitively: that the interchange isn’t working. More broadly, it suggests that complex systems that look great on paper are rarely as good as simple ones that naturally make sense to users.
Check back later today for a second post examining how the underlying assumptions behind this project may themselves be flawed.