The Signmaker Sends A Message

After taking a hiatus of sorts, the Third Street Secret Signmaker is back with another positive message — a positive message that I am sure everyone particularly appreciates during this weird period. I don’t know whether the message is specific to dealing with coronavirus issues, or is intended to have a more general thrust, but I’m going to read it as directed at COVID-19. And I agree with it, too.

We are enough to deal with this issue — and I think we’re starting to see that. Kish went to the grocery store today and there was no chaos or panic buying. Indeed, there was even toilet paper and milk in stock. People were polite, friendly, and helpful to each other.

I think people are starting to calm down and pull together, and when that happens there is nothing we can’t do.

It’s news when people engage in panic-buying, and not news when the panic stops and sanity returns. The Secret Signmaker might suggest that we take a deep breath, trust our instincts, and realize we can handle this. We really are enough, if we just act like it.

Getting Rid Of A Bad Merge

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.


A Most Welcome Sign

The morning commute can set the tone for the day.  If it is a ball-busting, white-knuckling hassle, filled with stops and starts and inexplicable traffic jams and angry road ragers, it’s hard to get to the office with a cheerful attitude.

Lately my drives to work have been like that.  I take I-670 into Columbus, and for months the Third Street exit to the downtown area has been closed.  As a result, all downtown traffic has been funneled into alternative routes.

My alternative route, frankly, sucked.  I felt like Luke Skywalker following Wedge down into the trench of the Death Star as I banked into a sharp left turn onto I-71, then maneuvered through a narrow cement canyon as cars tried to merge in from the left.  I kept wondering when one of the speeding cars ahead would nick the temporary concrete barriers channeling the detour traffic and go tumbling off into oblivion, like one of the doomed Rebel X-wing fighters.  Fortunately, there was no Darth Vader lurking nearby — just frustrated commuters dodging the orange cones and dealing with constantly changing traffic patterns on their way to work.

This week I noticed that “closed” sign had been removed from the Third Street exit.  Yesterday, with hope in my heart, I bypassed the dreaded detour and gave Third Street a shot.  Sure enough, it was open, and I sailed regally into downtown with a happy sigh.  Of course, I didn’t see any changes that would justify closing the exit for months in the first place — but I’m just happy it’s open again.

Amazing how one little sign can change your day for the better.