Oh, I see… it goes left AND right!

by mikemckinnon525

For the past decade or so, there has been construction on the flyovers from Ben White to I35. In 2005 or so they opened up the one that goes north onto I35. The southbound flyover languished and moped in a corner until some point this week, when, without any pomp or ceremony, the cones and signs were hauled away and it was opened for business.

The ramp from Ben White onto this flyover was always something of a Mongolian clusterfeed. Because the southbound ramp was unfinished, that traffic had to exit just past Congress and drive down the Ben White frontage road, then wait at a light to get onto the I35 frontage road, then drive a mile or so until the next on ramp for I35. Genius design, if I do say so myself. Thing is, this traffic shared an exit ramp with the northbound flyover. Southbound traffic would exit before it officially became a ramp, but the traffic mingled for a bit. Smart drivers who were heading north on I35 would wait to move over until after the makeshift southbound exit, which would often stack up due to the traffic light ahead.

Since opening the new southbound flyover, the “official” stripes that denote the exit lane have been moved down the road a few hundred yards. People pay no attention to this, and move onto what’s essentially the hard shoulder, only to have to angrily maneuver back into the line of cars that waited to move over according to the new striping. Then something funny happens. What used to be one lane of traffic, all northbound onto I35, is now two lanes. To quote Elaine Bennis, “How luxurious!” And it would be, if both of those lanes had the same destination, as half the drivers I’ve watched all week have assumed. The number of near misses caused by someone realizing at the last second that the ramp veering off to the right, toward which they are headed at 65 MPH, is not the way they normally go, and Oh Jesus! I’m going south!, swerve into the left lane, oblivious of the other cars that are already right there. It’s a dance. A stupid, stupid dance that makes the Macarena look like tango.

This morning took the cake, though. It was earlier than usual, about 7:45, and a Friday, so the traffic was relatively light. No potential catastrophes so far, until I spy a green Ford Windstar with its reverse lights on directly ahead. They had blindly taken the southbound flyover, and I guess a couple of hundred yards up the ramp decided it would be just fine to throw the old gal into reverse, drive back down the ramp, and rejoin the northbound traffic. Which would have been a fine plan in Khazikstan. In Austin… several cars that did intend to head south were now behind a rapidly moving van that did not seem especially concerned with the traffic stacking up behind it.

At this point I was myself stuck in traffic and lost sight of the carnival ahead. By the time traffic started moving and I got to a point I could see the diverging flyovers, there was no sign of the green van. Did they manage to reverse down that last few hundred feet past the dozen honking cars and rejoin the northbound lane? Or did they throw in the towel, dive up the ramp and onto south I35, then exit at Stassney, turn around and get back onto north I35?

The sunny optimist in me hopes they were pushed over the side of the ramp into the trees below.