Poll: The Hunt for the Worst Intersection in America Continues

Image: ##http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/17341/8half-minutes-to-cross-the-street/##Google Earth/GGW##

Earlier this week we looked at the intersection of Route 355 and Shady Grove Road near Rockville, Maryland, flagged by Ben Ross at Greater Greater Washington for being especially hostile to pedestrians, even though it’s the site of a bus stop. We asked if it might be the worst intersection in the country and put out a call for readers to send their nominations for the title.

As some readers pointed out, the Rockville intersection at least has sidewalks on all four corners and some refuges for pedestrians caught mid-crossing, so it certainly can’t be nation’s worst. Several other submissions landed in our inbox where the engineers let the sheer car-centricity of the roads overwhelm the meager provisions for pedestrians even more.

Wouldn’t you know it: We received three nominations from Florida, which Transportation for America has singled out as the most dangerous state for pedestrians. One reader sent us this stunner: State Route 7 and Forest Hill Boulevard in Wellington, Florida. From this satellite picture, it looks like a walk around this intersection would cross 45 lanes, plus — is that a bike lane? Wouldn’t want to be in the middle of that on a Cannondale:

Moving on. Another nomination came in via Twitter from Thomas Hawkins: Gainesville’s Archer Road and 34th Street. I’m counting 34 lanes. On the other hand, there are sidewalks — granted, they’re sort of poor-man’s sidewalks with no buffer between all the traffic — and at least a few painted crosswalks. Also there are some slip lanes in there — the channelized shortcuts for drivers making right turns — to add a dash more excitement for everyone crossing the street. For your consideration:

Finally, Bloomingdale Avenue and US 301 in West Brandon, Florida, via our Twitter friend Dave K. He points out the use of triple right and left turn lanes, which must be a Florida thing. There are a few scattered crosswalks, but not a complete ring. I count 33 lanes. Again we see the use of channelized right turns — a major risk factor of pedestrians.

But enough about Florida. Whatcha got, the rest of the United States? Let’s turn to the intersection of 132nd Street, Industrial Road, Millard Avenue, and L Street in Omaha, Nebraska. Obviously this one boasts a near-total lack of sidewalks and no crosswalks at all. Impressive! Extra points for the confusing tangle of lane markings for cars in the center. I’m counting 30 lanes. Thanks for the submission, John Amdor.

Now let’s take a gander at Missouri 141 and Gravois Road in St. Louis. This entry comes to us from the editor of the Seattle Bike Blog, who spent his formative years in this region. Looks like this intersection has about 25 lanes, no sidewalks and no crosswalks. Our source also tells us this is right next to a “kids’ play center.” Yeesh.

This picture of the intersection of Abercorn Street and White Bluff Road in Savannah, Georgia, comes to us from an anonymous source. It’s hard to know for certain how many lanes there are, honestly. I count 27. No sidewalks or crosswalks to boot! Are those channelized right turns, or is the whole road a channel?

Finally comes this beauty from San Francisco. I’m not even sure exactly what’s going on here at Potrero Avenue and Division Street, right in the heart of the city. Clearly a respectable contender, with the added discomfort of being topped by a freeway. Thanks to Twitter follower Josh Bingham for the nomination!

Well, folks, what do you think? It’s up to you, our mighty brain trust of Streetsblog readers and Twitter followers, to vote for the most awful and dangerous intersection in the country. Take your pick:

Which intersection is the worst?

  • 132nd Street, Industrial Road, Millard Avenue, and L Street in Omaha, Nebraska (29%, 136 Votes)
  • Missouri 141 and Gravois Road in St. Louis (21%, 98 Votes)
  • Abercorn Street and White Bluff Road in Savannah, Georgia (20%, 93 Votes)
  • Potrero Avenue and Division Street in San Francisco (10%, 49 Votes)
  • Gainesville’s Archer Road and 34th Street (8%, 36 Votes)
  • State Route 7 and Forest Hill Boulevard in Wellington, Florida (6%, 29 Votes)
  • Route 355 and Shady Grove Road near Rockville, Maryland (3%, 15 Votes)
  • Bloomingdale Avenue and US 301 in West Brandon, Florida (3%, 13 Votes)

Total Voters: 468

39 thoughts on Poll: The Hunt for the Worst Intersection in America Continues

  1. I voted for Gainesville because it looks like significant numbers of people have to actually walk through there every day. It looks frighteningly similar to the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic in Brooklyn, though the slip lanes add some extra hostility. The SF intersection probably gets a lot of foot traffic too, but the freeways are blocking the view of what’s going on.

  2. Puhleeze. Clearly Bingham has no idea what a bad intersection is in the rest of the country. Being quite familiar with SF, Potrero & Division are both perfectly reasonable streets to traverse, with sidewalks and plenty of ped traffic. at most you’d have to cross 4-5 lanes.  There are actually worse intersections in outer SF where the streetscape becomes standard-suburban 8-lanes across.

    And what’s with “added discomfort of being topped by a freeway?” How does that affect crossing the street? The frightening noise of the traffic above?

  3. Potrero and Division scores badly because there’s a freeway over it (no on/off ramps at the intersection, btw), but ~10 years ago the street-level intersection was filled in with wide ped refuge islands, wider sidewalks, pedestrian signals, etc, and lately bike lanes were added on two streets. It’s not heaven but it’s far better than it looks in the aerial pic covered by the freeway.

  4. @0b0823518bc1aa61f8968d1058cabd20:disqus  Yeah, totally, walking in the dank shadow of a loud, elevated highway doesn’t detract from the pedestrian experience at all.

  5. I think the ones without crosswalks and sidewalks are actually not as bad as the two with 3-sided crosswalks. At least they’re honest with pedestrians in say “you’re not welcome here,” rather than pretending that they are hospitable while you meander a mile and a half to cross the street.

  6. That late submission is amazing in every way, @angelaschmitt:disqus . If crossing 10 lanes without a crosswalk isn’t awesome enough, check out the stimulating pedestrian experience passing surface parking lots!

  7. The missing 4th crosswalk is standard protocol for MoDOT in the outer suburbs. According to their logic, it’s safer for pedestrians that way. http://www.gatewaystreets.org/2010/missing-fourth-crosswalk-at-signalized/

  8. The entry from San Francisco (Calif.) is nasty due to its stacked nature. I’ve traveled through it a number of times over the years via bus, car, and foot. I was near there just last night shopping at the Safeway on 16th Street (near Portrero). The person who submitted that entry has a blog with some relevant posts for those who want to read more (see below).

    Pedestrianist blog search [division st] :

    P.S. I’ve read and enjoyed the Pedestrianist over the years and hope he returns to blogging. Twitter posts, to me, verge on Chinese water torture with an array of sauces instead of water.

  9. I voted for the Savannah intersection, mostly because it looks so confusing to drive on that I bet people are driving poorly and nervously, and that they have so much to look out for they aren’t looking for pedestrians. And why should they? They probably don’t see many of them on a street so inhospitable. No sidewalks, no crosswalks… and it’s right next to a shopping center and just down the street from a college (on the other side of the street).

  10. This is neither in America, nor in practice really much of a problem,† but I’ve always been amazed by what an insane clustf*ck of modern road-engineering it is:  there are four (vertical) layers of roadway here, all twisted into bizarre shapes, with the surface road having 10(?) lanes, and it’s directly in front of one of the busiest rail stations in Japan (~2 million passengers per day), with huge pedestrian volumes, smack dab in the center of one of Japan’s biggest cities.

    † Being Japan, there’s both an extensive elevated pedestrian walkway network, and a huge underground shopping area, both of which allow the road clusterf*ck to be painlessly avoided.  99% of pedestrians here will never actually have to cross a road.

    Still, it boggles my  mind every time I see it… wtf were they thinking?!

  11. I’ve walked, biked and driven through Potrero on Division in San Francisco, and it doesn’t deserve to be on the list never mind leading. Octavia and Market is a known hot spot. Market and Castro and 17th is also bad. The list could go on and on before Potrero and Divis would rank.

    I voted for Omaha, Nebraska. I can’t believe they even put a sidewalk to that monster.

  12. Regarding “pedestrian experience”–I think the focus here is on safety, rather than enjoyment.  I have walked under that San Francisco freeway en route from Van Ness and Market to Alameda St. (to take photos of an 1890s-era power plant building).  It’s not pleasant, but cars on the freeway don’t physically endanger pedestrians at ground level.  And walking by a parking lot isn’t as much fun as walking through a quaint neighborhood, but the cars are just sitting there, and some have amusing bumper stickers and/or vanity plates.

  13. The first one is impressive because of the bike lanes….ie, adding the bike lanes probably let them hit certain environmental check-marks.

    I nominate the ones on the Las vegas strip, especially because there are tens of thousands of pedestrians every day using them.

  14. I don’t understnad the hate for channelized right turn lanes.  If they weren’t channelized, the crosswalks would be even longer and with more turning conflicts.  Wouldn’t you rather have the conflicts separated out into multiple stages?  The islands created by the channelized turn lanes acts like a pedestrian refuge.

  15. That’s not even my worst intersection in Omaha.  Well, mine wouldn’t count because there is no sidewalk because they cut off all pedestrian access with a monster fly-over intersection at 108th and Dodge.  I’ve stayed at a hotel at that intersection and wanted to walk to the mall or WholeFoods, which is less than a mile away.  It’s not possible.  Google says you have to walk over 3 miles to get to the location which is a mile away.  https://maps.google.com/maps?ie=UTF-8&q=towneplace+suites,+omaha&fb=1&gl=us&hq=towneplace+suites,&hnear=0x87938dc8b50cfced:0x46424d4fae37b604,Omaha,+NE&cid=0,0,16147392518516755856&ei=-0kLUbe9KufuyAG9poDgAg&ved=0CNcBEPwSMAc

  16. The problem is that the “dc.” branch of the Streetsblog site has their Disqus mechanism configured differently than the other branches. The “sf.” branch. for example, allows edits.

  17. I ride my bicycle through the Potrero Ave and Division St intersection every day and it is quite a mess.

  18. I’m going to throw the intersection of 350 Hwy and Gregory Blvd in Raytown, Missouri, into the mix:

    What makes this particularly bad:

     * No crosswalks at all
     * No pedestrian signals
     * Bank, drugstore, many other retail establishments immediately adjacent, and then residential areas immediately adjacent to them–so plenty of latent pedestrian demand
     * Although this doesn’t have as many lanes as some of the examples above, the acute angle between Gregory & 350 Hwy means that pedestrians wanting to cross 350 Hwy parallel to Gregory must traverse a very, very, very long length of pavement with no refuge from traffic.  It is double or triple the distance the six-lane configuration would normally be.
     * Gregory (the main path of pedestrians in this situation) has sidewalks leading right up to the intersection but they just stop abruptly right at the intersection.
     * The angle of the intersection and swooping nature of the numerous left- and right-turn cutouts ensures that vehicles are coming at the pedestrian from numerous unusual angles.  When I tried to cross the intersection on foot, I found I just couldn’t possible keep track of all the different directions vehicles were coming at me–simultaneously from the front, back, and both sides, but at strange and unexpected angles.

    All that is bad enough. But here is what puts it right at the top of the worst–and something that is not obvious from the map alone:

     * Because of the way the traffic signal is programmed, there is NEVER a time when a pedestrian crossing parallel to Gregory has a ‘pedestrian green’ phase.  There are ALWAYS many fast-moving vehicles swooping around the left-turn, right-turn, or straight-through directions, who themselves have green lights, are moving fast, and who are not looking for pedestrians at all.

    I’m a fairly adventurous pedestrian and not very much put off by heavy, fast traffic.  I tried to cross this intersection once many years ago, gave up in fear of my life, and haven’t dared try it again.

  19. Whoa. I voted for Savannah simply because of the crazy confusion of the curved lanes and the fact that I’m not sure how you would even go about illegally crossing the road on the east/right side of that picture. Terrifying.

  20. I used to live near the intersection of Archer & 34 during grad school (for urban planning :)) and sometimes would have to walk across Archer to catch a bus…there is a small island, but it only helps a little.  There isn’t enough time to cross safely.  Driving is pretty bad too!

    I have been to the intersection in Wellington, and while its large-no doubt-its not impossible to navigate. 

  21. State Route 7 and Forest Hill Boulevard in Wellington, Florida: I have to say, this is very much like an intersection I cross several times a week. And I’m HAPPY to have it. Why? It was recently redesigned and upgraded as a part of the interstate beside it. They put in adaptive signals, The islands are safe havens with signal buttons. Before it was just dangerous, now you CAN cross safely.

  22. Check out this one: Wellington Circle in Medford, MA. There are crosswalks that will get you from A to B if you’re creative enough to figure out where they are. And there are no accommodations for bicyclists at all. But more than anything this is incredibly confusing to drive through, even with many signs and lane markings. It’s a big mess!

  23. As pure pedestrian experience, I would be the first to admit that 355 and Shady Grove Road is not out of the ordinary at all.  

    Looking at the other entries, the only area I’m familiar with is Palm Beach County.  I’ve walked around there quite a bit (although I’ve only driven through that intersection, and wasn’t trying to observe).  Route 7 and Forest Hill is quite typical for major intersections in that county.  The only thing out of the ordinary is the sheer number of lanes at 45.  30 to 40 is more typical.

    What I think is special about 355 and Shady Grove is that it’s on a major bus corridor and in an area designated for transit-oriented development around a Metro station.  Currently, during the morning rush hour, a bus stops every 10 minutes from 6 am to 9 am at the stop where I began my walk.  This corridor is one of the three designated as highest priority for Montgomery County’s bus rapid transit study.  And the quotes in my blog post from the master plan are a striking contrast to the reality.

  24. I grew up in Elmhurst, IL, which has fairly reasonable intersections except along its edges, which are just stupid. Route 83’s intersections with North Ave. and St. Charles Road each are on the state’s list of worst intersections routinely; I think the single crosswalk on the north side of St. Charles is new and was probably grudgingly installed because of some requirement. But the two adjacent cloverleafs in the southwest corner of town are just giant middle fingers to anyone that isn’t in a car. Before the Salt Creek Trail underpass of Roosevelt was built, I once had to walk from Oakbrook Mall to the area near York High School carrying luggage… the only remotely direct way involves running across merge ramps.

  25. I voted Gainesville considering I grew up there. I once lived right near that and have to cross two of those roads every day carrying me 3 year old daughter on my shoulders to get her to daycare and work. Not once was I ever dumb enough to cross at those crosswalks. I would always walk far away from that intersection and jaywalk my way across the road. Also have to take into account its a huge college town, University of Florida, so there thousands of crazy 18 to 24 year old drivers zooming around that whole city. Well that’s it GO GATORS.

  26. Oh, my.  A horrified glance at any one of those Florida intersections makes me realized how (relatively) spoiled we are in San Francisco.  That Potrero Ave entry may be bad by San Francisco standards, but go down the peninsula to Sunnyvale, or across the Bay to Walnut Creek… still, even these horror shows don’t come close to those shown here.  “My God, what have we done?”

  27. To give an extra little push for the 141/Gravois option: that kids’ play center is called “Swing Around Fun Town,” and it has go-karts, putt-putt and an arcade. But you can’t get there from the bus stop without sprinting across that highway. This is also in the historic old downtown of Fenton, MO, about two blocks from a bike shop and surrounded by big box shopping centers and small business strip malls.

    Also, see that bridge over the creek? No sidewalk or even shoulder space, yet it is the only way to get to a Best Buy and Old Navy. Imagine if you worked there and had to walk from that bus stop to work very day!

  28. Looks like this picture is mid construction. They must be adding another EB thru lane. The EB RT curb radius is complete, it looks like about 120 feet, so you can take this corner at about 45 mph. The crosswalk markings are brand new despite everyone knew this was going to be rebuilt.

  29. that 132nd picture doesn’t get the whole idea in there. “L” St.’s 3 westbound lanes narrows to two lanes on industrial right after the intersection. There is a channeling road for people turning northbound onto 132nd street, but it’s farther back and people miss it all the time so they wind up tuning where they are not supposed to. Industrial road doesn’t have sidewalks. The entire road is a nightmare for pedestrians. go west to 144th and Center you’ll see another charming one. There, 144th comes up a very sharp hill to cross industrial at an x angle. At 150th where Center Rd and Industrial fork, the intersection has improved, but people have literally died trying to walk through that intersection. Thank god they put sidewalks under the bridge finally. There used to be no way to walk from the lakeside area to the Oakview area without taking your life into your hands

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