Friday, February 25, 2005

Control Cities

Ever wonder why certain towns wind up on highway signs and others do not? I used to think that any town that passed a certain population threshold would be listed on the map. While that may be the criterion for building an exit, today I discovered that there exist certain "control cities" that serve as distance references on our Interstates. Click on the title of this entry to link to a chart of these control cities and the Interstates with which they're associated! It's like taking a very fast cross country trip... Simultaneously, it makes me think of how large the country is, and how completely it is straddled by the Eisenhower Interstate System.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Multiplex

You may have thought that a multiplex was only a place to watch movies. Guess again! Watching movies would be quite dangerous at a HIGHWAY Multiplex. In the context of big roads, a multiplex is the area where roads split or converge. A good sampling of US this species in the U.S. (and even one in Canada) can be found at:

Multiplexes are exciting because they often cause highways to suddenly enlarge, swell, and otherwise upgrade. Is this because multiple streams of federal funding converge at interstate multiplexes? A multiplex near me, the divergence of I-495 and I-678 is one of the most glorious urban interstates in New York City...but the congestion in that area is also, more often than not, a real dog. Who is responsible for improving it?

Unnecessary Roughness

Truckers really would know best...and in a trucker-oriented magazine, I found the following:

"While a few places are rough, they are being replaced or are scheduled to be, Kirkpatrick says. “Over the last 10 years, Pennsylvania has dramatically improved the riding surface of its interstates,” he says. “The median number for the International Roughness Index, the nationally accepted measure of pavement smoothness, dropped from nearly 105 in 1996 to roughly 86 in 2003. The median for I-80 in 2003 was 78 and for I-81, 84. These numbers represent very good ride quality. It remains a mystery to us why your readers insist that our interstates are not in good condition. We have invested a lot of money in the primary truck routes.”'

- Overdrive Magazine (

The International Roughness Index!!! What a concept!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

We are not alone!

Eric Smith's bold vision for the future, writ large in SC4 Rush Hour Edition:

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Road Community

There's a larger community of road enthusiasts out there than I once realized. Having just joined the Yahoo! groups, "Abandoned Highways" and "Northeast Roads," I now feel a much stronger connection to other "road geeks." There seems to be a bevvy

I also stumbled onto this fascinating pictoral journey through roads on the West coast. IMHO, the pictures don't seem to capture the singular magnificence of massive spending on road construction and maintenance that is endemic to California. However, they do provide some interesting coverage of the region's roads...and the only photos of roads in Baja that I've ever seen!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Down With Tax-by-Mile!

In an effort to get more highway construction dollars, some have suggested that cash-strapped states (such as California) begin to charge drivers based on the distance and time of day that they commute. These seem like gross and rough measures of relative damage that an individual motorist can do to a road. Yes, some kind of taxing scenario by time-of-day and proximity to traffic clichpoints, downtown areas, etc. may make sense (particularly when coupled with proper alternative transportation incentives), but distance travelled hardly seems a relevant factor. What about vehicle weight? What about hesitation at red lights or highway merges? These should come with the stiffest of penalties! People aready pay a distance tax -- time, fuel, automobile wear and tear -- and put less of a constant strain on "downtown" roads...why saddle them with an extra burden? It is the duty of the federal government to provide us with a basic network of roads the connect medium- and large-sized towns nationwide, and to assure their proper maintenance. When social security dries up, we'll still be riding on the same highways. Let's hope they're well-paved.

Tax-by-Mile: What an awful solution!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Great Highway Moments on Film

At the very end of "Lost In America," a film that HBO describes as,"Two West Coast youppies sell everything, buy a huge motor home and set out to do some real living," Albert Brooks admits to his wife that "it isn't working." He agrees to "eat shit and head get New York as soon as possible," to find a new Creative Director position at another ad agency. The journey from rural Arizona (where he and his wife were working as a crossing guard, and as a fry girl, respectively) to New York City, is one of the most stunning tributes to American urbanism and our highway culture that I have ever seen. At the same time, the bold cityscapes, fronted by gracefully arching highways, are interspersed with very small town getting-lost scenes, where the roadways featured were far from limited access. Throughout the montage, Sinatra's "New York, New York" plays in the background. At the very end, Brooks pulls the motor home into a parking space on 57th street (right in front of the "9" building), and stumbles out cleanly shaven in a fresh suit, carrying his portfolio in a briefcase, as his wife hands him a cup of coffee from a thermos. It's a must see!

Monday, February 07, 2005

Sign Language

In preparation for the opening of our new, extended HOV lanes (or at least new announcements about those lanes), they've erected signs along the approach to Nassau County that read, "Sign Under Construction."


Tuesday, February 01, 2005


Depending on the time of the train I take in the morning, I see wildly different traffic patterns on the Clearview Expressway (I-295 in New York). As the Port Washington line of the Long Island Railroad sails over the expressway at 8:10 am, the exit ramp to Northern Boulevard is just CLOGGED with cars. At 8:30, it isn't. At 9:15 it's clogged again. Before noticing this, I thought the Clearview got virtually no use at all... Now I see that people may use it strategically...

This, and adding extermal links to my blog will hurt my search rankings. Fooey!