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Do Shiny New Roads “Only Make Idiots More Dangerous”?

10:34 AM EDT on June 29, 2009

We hear the arguments again and again from DOTs: they need to widen highways and expand interchanges to improve safety on the nation's roads.

Streetsblog Network member The Political Environment, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sees it differently: 

3371733664_98b68c311e_m.jpgPhoto of the Marquette Interchange in Milwaukee by TracyJ_Brown via Flickr.

[M]ost fatalities on the road are caused by speed, alcohol or other factors tied to driver inattentiveness or indifference, and spiffy new lanes and perfect pavement only makes these menaces more dangerous.

Twice in the last two weeks - - once on Madison's beltline heading west and once in the gaudy new Marquette Interchange - - I was nearly sideswiped by motorists on my right who changed lanes without looking.

…I find the new Marquette more hazardous for motorists who want to exit westbound at 26th or 35 St. as they have to move quickly to the right into traffic coming from behind coming downhill from high ramps feeding in from the Hoan Bridge or I-43 south.

The new Marquette induces speeding -- smooth pavement, gravity, the perception that the whole machine's alleged efficiencies are there to make your trip faster have created a Death Valley in the interchange just past the Marquette University campus.

It's the stupidity factor that kills people on the highways, and I am convinced that WisDOT's rebuilding and redesigning schemes only make idiots more dangerous.

A recent article in Popular Mechanics came to a similar conclusion.

More from around the network: WashCycle writes about the advantages of lefty bike lanes; Cap'n Transit wonders what to do about transit labor costs; and the National Journal wonders whether reducing vehicle miles traveled should be a national transportation goal.

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