Red Line Death Watch Part 1

No, not like the GM Death Watch at my favorite car blog; this is a “how long before somebody’s killed” series. Today, some pictures of the intersection I talked about on KUT last week.
First, the overheard. Imagine you’re headed west on 51st across Airport because you just went to Home Depot and are headed back to Hyde Park or points south. (Hint: Red River starts just south of this image as a turn off of Clarkson; turning on Clarkson is thus by far the best way into or around Hyde Park by car).

Not a lot of room there to queue up for that left turn, huh. Let’s zoom in with google’s streetview:

Uh-oh. That don’t look good. But surely Capital Metro has done something about this intersection since then, right?
Yep. They’ve flapped their gums about how stupid drivers are to stop on the tracks – but have done precisely nothing to address the conditions at this intersection that almost always require you to stop on or just past the tracks if you ever want to make this left turn.

Guess who just did that on Sunday? If you were following the twitter machine, you’d already know. And yes, I know better; but no, the trains weren’t running, at least not yet. At the time I made this turn, traffic was moderate – too much to sit across Airport until clear on the other side; too little to be in serious danger on the other side (i.e. if the gate started going down I had an escape path ready).

There is just barely enough space before the gate for a small car to stop, if they don’t mind sticking out past the beginning of the left-turn bay. There is not enough room past the gate for a left-turning car to stop without risking having the rear end of the car at or past the crossing gate. In other words, quite often there isn’t enough space for even one vehicle to queue up for this left turn without being in violation of the crossing gate or the double yellow behind. Not even one. So what do you think drivers are going to do here, in the real world?
You don’t open up a rail line that requires that people be willing to sit through multiple light cycles on the other side of Airport to make this turn safely (if you can even judge that far ahead – you usually can’t; oncoming traffic comes too quickly). You redesign the intersection to eliminate the turn, or re-engineer it some other way to make it safe rather than just hoping your gum-flapping will convince motorists to do something which may prevent them from ever making their turn. That is, unless you sold this thing as a pig-in-a-poke by claiming it would be easy and cheap to run diesel trains on existing track.

More later, if time warrants. Yes, there’s other problems just at this one intersection.