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High Collision Area Ahead…

One of the exciting things about living in California is that sometimes it seems like we would rather ADVERTISE a traffic problem than FIX it!

In the city of Livermore, near the Livermore Municipal Airport, is the intersection of Kitty Hawk Road and Airway Boulevard. Many people travel through this intersection every day, on their way to and from work. From time to time, a large solar-powered electric sign, which is placed on northbound Kitty Hawk Road, flashes the warning, “High Collision Area Ahead.” The sign comes and goes, reminding us of the dangerous intersection, from time to time. :-)

As you can tell from the Google map, the newly re-routed (a VERY good thing) Highway 84 goes north on Kitty Hawk, and then makes a left-hand turn onto Airway. What you cannot tell on the Google map (in map view) is the configuration of the existing road…so I went to satellite view. What I believe to be one of the major causes of collisions at the intersection is two lanes of traffic moving northbound at a traffic light, both of which are allowed to make a left turn onto Airway, then an immediate merging of the left lane to the RIGHT as Airway becomes one lane going west (see the two white arrows for the merging?).

Both of the northbound lanes MAY be allowed to turn left because there are big trucks that have to make the turn and might need the larger turning radius provided by being in the right lane. However, it would seem to make more sense to have only the LEFT lane on northbound Kitty Hawk turn left and only ONE WIDE lane after the left turn, eliminating the UNUSUAL left-to-right merging of traffic. The wide lane might make it possible for trucks to make the turn easily (the traffic department could measure this to see) and would eliminate the dangerous left-turn-followed-by-unusual-left-to-right-merge that currently exists.

One morning, my heart almost stopped because folks were painting the road! Could it be that they were eliminating the dangerous merge and making only one left-turn lane? I watched the work as closely as I could while navigating the dangerous intersection on my motorcycle.

Nope. :-)

They were repainting the same stupid merge arrows that cause some of the problem in the first place! I moaned. The fact that they were repainting the same stupid merge arrows meant that the intersection was likely scheduled to remain screwed up for a long period of time! :-)

It does not seem like rocket science (and we have a number of rocket scientists in the Bay Area to help out if needed) :-) to make a single left-turn lane and eliminate the unusual left-to-right merging of traffic. Besides, with a single left-turn lane, there is no traffic to MERGE!

How about it, Livermore Traffic Department? Or (shudder! :-) ) could this be a CALTRANS issue, since it is a state route?

I will save until another time a discussion of the newly installed metering lights for the northbound Airway to westbound I-580 on-ramp, which have REALLY messed up traffic in the area and are TOO DUMB to detect motorcycles in the carpool lane on the on-ramp (I mean, from about five feet away)! That problem is a mixture of technological and human errors.

The “High Collision Area Ahead” problem at the intersection of Airway and Kitty Hawk seems to be a case of an intersection that was engineered to FAIL and could be fixed (at least in part) by a bucket of paint (and human intelligence in applying it). The potential cost savings on police handling of collisions, and on moving the electric sign around, :-) should make it worth the investigation.

(Note added September 27, 2008: I was headed eastbound on Airway today and turned right (south) on Kitty Hawk with a green arrow. An oncoming vehicle turned LEFT onto southbound Kitty Hawk, the way that I was going, at the same time. I could not see what his traffic signal was doing, but I wish someone would look into it! This may be yet another cause of the High Collision rate at this intersection.)

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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