By Sebastian Wren
I’ve been active in this neighborhood for nearly 20 years, and over the years I’ve listened to many people complain about the traffic in their part of the neighborhood. Some are definitely worse than others, but clearly there are about 10 traffic situations in our neighborhood that are highly problematic. In my experience, this is a fair count down of the top 10 biggest traffic problems in our neighborhood:
#10 The 56th Street / Duval Expressway
In the morning, you can hear them coming. Starting at Koenig Lane and Avenue F, you can hear the engines winding up. People have discovered that they can pull into our neighborhood at Avenue F, turn left on 56th Street, turn right on Duval, and go all the way down to 53rd Street without hitting a single stop sign.
There are a few people in sports cars and one guy on a motorcycle who are notorious. They seem to love this wide-open stretch of road. Hard acceleration, squealing tires — this is a stretch of road in need of a few obstacles.
#9 Commuters on Leralynn
Every morning and every evening, hundreds of cars cut through our neighborhood in the hopes of shaving a few seconds off of their commute. Most of the time this isn’t that big a problem, but on Leralynn it is a problem — a very serious problem.
Leralynn is a short stretch of road from North Loop to 51st Street. It is narrow, full of parked cars, pedestrians, and pets, and there isn’t a sidewalk to be found. The people cutting through our neighborhood in a hurry to get to work or home are shockingly impatient and rude. If you’re trying to pull out of your driveway, they’ll honk at you and keep going. If you’re a pedestrian, they’ll run you down. (I’m not kidding — two pedestrians have been hit on this street in the past year alone.)
This is a road in desperate need of a few speed humps. Big ones.
#8 The Guadalupe Serpentine
If you are trying to cross Guadalupe at Nelray, you are probably going to experience a little anxiety. The serpentine curves in Guadalupe just north of Nelray make it nearly impossible to see cars coming. During rush hour, it is very uncomfortable. If you are walking or riding a bicycle, or (heaven help you) pushing a baby stroller, you are probably cursing the traffic engineers who thought that it would be fun to design Guadalupe like a race track in Monaco.
Just a little further north on Guadalupe, there are speed humps and traffic islands that very effectively slow traffic down. One of those traffic-calming measures should be installed just north of Nelray on Guadalupe.
#7 The Lack of Pedestrian Facilities near North Loop
From Epoch Coffee to Drink Well, it’s hard to be a pedestrian. Our local businesses are very attractive, and lots of people want to go there. But cars trolling around looking for a parking space can make it very hard to be a pedestrian. There aren’t sidewalks on most of our streets, so pedestrians have to walk in the street.
When there are a lot of cars parked in the street, and there are a lot of cars driving around looking for a parking space, it can be pretty uncomfortable to be a pedestrian. But one of our streets (Chesterfield) has one-side parking with a pedestrian pathway on the other side of the street (a simple stripe of paint – that’s all it takes).
It works very well. We need more streets to be one-side parking.
#6 Chesterfield at Nelray
Chesterfield is a great street. Hundreds of people walk down it every day, and thanks to the one-side street parking, it’s fairly reasonable for pedestrians. (Could be better, but really, it’s not bad.)
But the corner of Nelray and Chesterfield is insanely dangerous. People seem to think that this intersection has a 4-way stop sign — it isn’t. Some people run the stop sign. Some people stop, and then go (assuming the cross traffic is going to stop for THEIR stop sign… that they don’t have…).
Life near this intersection is punctuated with squealing tires, honking horns, and the occasional fender-bender. There is frequently broken glass and bits of broken plastic in the intersection, so people are clearly getting into crashes.
But complaints to the city have been shamefully fruitless. The city traffic engineers insist that this is a perfectly safe corner. They have studied it several times, and they always come to the conclusion that it is a good, safe intersection.
#5 The Crazy Intersection of 53rd Street, Bruning Avenue, Eilers, Clarkson, Middle Fiskville Road, and the Railroad Tracks
This is a bizarre intersection. This isn’t an exaggeration — look at a map — there are 5 roads that come together right at the railroad tracks. And by the way, Airport Boulevard is only about 30 feet from this intersection. If you are on a bicycle or (heaven help you) trying to walk through this spaghetti bowl, you’re in for some confusion. They’ve recently painted some zebra stripes to make it clearer where pedestrians are supposed to walk, but it really doesn’t help much.
This intersection needs so much – honestly, it just needs to be redesigned. Bruning Avenue should be local-access only, and some of the other streets should be limited access.
#4 The Crazy 5-Way Intersection at 51st Street, Duval Avenue, and Bruning Avenue
When the North Loop Neighborhood Plan was adopted nearly 20 years ago, the neighborhood prioritized the closure of Bruning Avenue to through traffic. The intersection at Duval, 51st, and Bruning is dumb and dangerous. The city took a stab at making it safer by adding traffic lights, but it’s really not an improvement. Rush hour traffic is crazy, and it is absolutely unsafe for pedestrians.
Closing Bruning Avenue is long, long overdue. It does not make sense to have a diagonal street cutting across our grid-layout neighborhood. Every intersection along Bruning is dangerous, and each end of Bruning is horrible. Bruning should be turned into a pedestrian-friendly avenue with local-access only for cars.
#3 The Pedestrian Nightmare Along Airport Boulevard
Here is one of the funniest jokes in the neighborhood: There are bus-stops on Airport Boulevard. Get it? It’s funny because people might die trying to catch the bus. The East side of Airport Boulevard is vaguely tolerable, but the whole West side of that street is a nightmare.
The area around 53rd Street and the area around 51st Street are both just awful. There are no pedestrian facilities around there. No sidewalks. No curbs. There’s mud and potholes next to high-volume, high-speed traffic. This is an area where a little concrete would not go to waste.
The city created a plan years ago to re-design and re-build Airport Boulevard. This plan calls for pedestrian facilities and safety features. And this plan is long over-due. The city needs to take that plan off the shelf and start construction. And the reconstruction of Airport Boulevard should extend across the railroad tracks at every street.
#2 51st Street — All of it
Guess what this is:
If you guessed, “A car that was going way too fast on 51st Street and ended up flying through the air and landing on the roof of a near-by house,” you are … um… completely correct. How did you know?
Yes, that’s right, cars sometimes go so fast on 51st Street, they get air-born! Between Duval and Guadalupe cars can race along at full speed. They lose control often, smashing into people’s fences, knocking over rock walls, and yes, even landing on the roofs of houses.
Cars sometimes go so fast along this street that pedestrians trying to cross the street often have difficulty judging how much time they have to get across the street. At Avenue F and 51st, visibility isn’t that great, and pedestrians often get honked at for “being in the way.”
A little traffic calming around those curves on 51st Street West of Avenue F would be extremely welcome.
#1 Avenue F
Without a doubt, the most unhappy place in the neighborhood is Avenue F. High traffic volume, high traffic speed, high pedestrian volume, and poor facilities all come together on this one stretch of road.
I’ve seen buses going backwards down the street for blocks to make room for other buses coming the opposite direction. I’ve seen cars hit buses. I’ve seen cars hit cars. I’ve seen dead pets laying in the gutter. I’ve seen cars speeding down the street bottom out and nearly lose control because of a major dip in the road.
Avenue F is a mess. If there is one problem that must be fixed in this neighborhood, it is this short stretch of road. Traffic calming would be good. Maybe a traffic circle at 54th street would help. Anything that can be done to divert the high traffic volume from this street would be helpful.
Capital Metro considered removing the #7 bus route from this street, but that is a very upsetting idea. The #7 bus is very handy, and most people do want to keep that bus in the heart of our neighborhood. But Avenue F should be redesigned to make it a better bus route. More sidewalks, maybe one-side street parking, and a few traffic-calming devices would make this a much better, safer street.