At the east end of the evocatively-named Rip Van Winkle Bridge in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York State is a seriously dangerous intersection where, briefly, routes 23 and 9G merge together.
In the above photograph, the nearest vehicle coming towards the camera has just done a standing start and a sharp left turn, in a 55mph limit, directly into the path of the semi-tractor-trailer in which the driver is now braking hard to avoid hitting the offending, red pick-up truck. At this part of the intersection, especially in the morning rush hour, it is possible to watch vehicle after vehicle pull out like this into the path of other vehicles, and inevitably there have been some really bad collisions.
The two cars underneath the large ‘Hudson’ and ‘Poughkeepsie’ signs are waiting to cross the northbound half of the major road then follow the pick-up truck and turn left, towards the camera. Those drivers’ task, however, is made more challenging by ill-educated or lazy drivers who are coming from the bridge (i.e. bottom left) and heading towards Hudson but are wrongly staying in the left-hand lane rather than using the right-hand lane, as are the two vehicles that are going away from the camera in this photo.
Last but not least, the sedan visible in the top left-hand corner of the photograph is waiting to cross the path of the Hudson-bound vehicles but the nature of this angled intersection is such that drivers will sometimes take chances and cross the main road when the gap to fast-approaching vehicles is inadequate or their view of fast cars is blocked by a large but slowly approaching vehicle, and again a dangerous situation occurs.
In terms of safety awareness among road-design engineers, it is hard to see why this extraordinarily poor design was ever sanctioned in the first place but at least it is now scheduled for replacement by a roundabout. On this topic, in a Facebook post from New York State Department of Transportation (headed: “Roundabouts can be tricky for motorists who aren’t familiar with them…”), NYSDOT replied on July 24, 2018, to a question from a Daniel Lamarre about a proposed at the Rip Van Winkle intersection with this: “We are waiting for contract approval on that project. Construction is expected to begin this summer and be finished in the fall. Once the contract is approved, the contractor can tell us more about what types of lane closures and traffic impacts to expect.”
One can only hope that a few hundred yards to the north, the equally dangerous intersection where 9G splits away once more from Route 23, towards Hudson, will also get a roundabout because bad driving at that location has also cost lives.
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