As the Trib’s editorial (6-24) so eloquently points out, the newly completed DOT offramp will create a seamless connection between I-5 and SR 16, solve the long-term traffic engineering problems in the T-dome area, and create a brighter future for drivers, everywhere. Yay.
For those of us who have slogged from I-5 to SR 16 every afternoon, the last 18 months have been a descent into a merging, tail-gating, road rage-filled hell.
If you’ve been driving the I-5 northbound to SR 16 route regularly, I don’t have to tell you about the colossal backups, the abrupt lane changes, the aggressive cutting and brake-locking horror that our off-ramp experience has become as a result of DOT’s highly incapable group of puzzle masters.
Rather than recognize the overwhelming mass of vehicles heading southbound I-5 (as opposed to northbound) making their daily migration to SR 16, northbound cars got their own dedicated lane while southbound cars went from two lanes to one.
This illogical decision left the southbound I-5 drivers stuck with 1) the narrowing funnel resulting from I-705 and T-dome lanes diverging; 2) the incoming merge from eastbound I-705 to southbound I-5 which binds up traffic just as SR 16 bound cars are trying to get over in that direction; 3) the last-second lane cutting from drivers in the 38th St. exit lane into the SR 16 lane.
This last problem has made my fellow commuters consummate tailgaters. Rather than let the last minute cheat slink into your hard-earned spot, we grip the steering wheel hard and hold tight to the bumper in front. Tire marks and the crushed barrels at the fork between 38th St and SR 16 exit lanes are proof that some of those last minute lane-cutters didn’t quite make it.
The few times I experienced the comparatively breeze that is the northbound I-5 merge, I ground my teeth with envy. Finally, I made the “if you can’t beat them, join them,” leap–I took the mall exit, looped around on 38th St. and came back around to take the SR 16 onramp from there. All perfectly legal, and my stopwatch said it was quicker.
Too bad the brainiacs at DOT couldn’t own up to their error at the beginning of construction. There would have been fewer accidents, less stress and a lot less pointing of the middle-finger variety.
So if you’re not one of the regulars on the I-5 to SR 16 route, pay no attention to the 40ish guy in the little silver SUV driving slowly, with a look of wonder and anxiety. He’s simply making a difficult adjustment to an efficient commute.