One of those temporary electric traffic signs has been rolled into place to give Columbus motorists some important news and another reason to be thankful as we head toward Thanksgiving: the eastbound ramp from Third Street onto the combined I-70/I-71 highway is closing, permanently, on November 25. Drivers who use the ramp to get from downtown out to Bexley and points east are going to have to find another route.
The closure of the ramp will be an inconvenience for some motorists, no doubt, but getting rid of the ramp will be a really good thing from a traffic safety and flow standpoint. In fact, the ramp is part of one of those weird, inexplicable, irrational traffic patterns that really never should have developed in the first place. Drivers leaving downtown come barreling down Third Street, heading south, when the street splits into three different flows, with one lane heading south into German Village, one lane turning left onto Livingston Avenue, and two lanes taking an abrupt left turn down to the highway. Those two lanes then immediately merge into one lane — which makes you wonder why they were designed to be two lanes to begin with — at the same time drivers are supposed to be merging, on the left, into the traffic rushing past on the highway.
It’s a recipe for a bottleneck, and that’s exactly what it is. Drivers who don’t know Columbus are baffled about where to go and are regularly shifting lanes at the last minute, the hard left turn means you’ve got people jamming on the brakes and then speeding up to match the speed of the traffic on the highway, and the virtually simultaneous merges while cars are trying to get onto a busy highway always cause delays, and sometimes cause accidents. Is a driver supposed to focus on the merging lane from the right, or the merge onto the highway to the left?
Columbus is a great town, but some of the core downtown traffic design is desperately in need of updating. Eliminating the Third Street merge is a good start.