Monday, September 26, 2011

The Road To Somewhere: Secret Freeway Connector--Why Does The Government Keep It Hidden? (Because It's Governmentally Logical)

We're all familiar with the bridge to nowhere and it's symbolism as to government waste and incompetence. But even when there is a useful road to somewhere, the government is equally capable of showing its ineptitude.

When I started working in downtown Los Angeles, I noticed that while crawling in the evening rush hour traffic home north on the Hollywood Freeway, I would for a short stretch drive parallel to a usually empty connector ramp going in the opposite direction. I often wondered about such a lightly traveled road at rush hour in the midst of the downtown freeway interchange, but didn't bother to pursue it until recently. I ultimately discovered that it was effectively the direct connector road from the southbound Pasadena Freeway to the eastbound San Bernardino Freeway. Now you would figure that this connector road would be packed with traffic as surely a lot of people want to travel from this portion of the southbound 110 freeway to the eastbound 10 freeway. But it isn't, and the reason is that there's nothing at all to indicate that you can get to the eastbound San Bernardino Freeway using that road. The only signage indicates that the connector ramp will take you to the southbound Hollywood Freeway, which ends just a short distance ahead, and the southbound Santa Ana Freeway, which along with the eastbound San Bernardino Freeway, picks up where the Hollywood Freeway leaves off. However, if you're going south on the Pasadena Freeway, there are better ways to get to the Santa Ana Freeway which most drivers know about.

Actually, there is a technical explanation of why this road is not identified as connecting to the San Bernardino Freeway. Interstate 10, as it makes its way from Santa Monica, California to Jacksonville, Florida (I actually once sought out the eastern start to I-10 in Jacksonville), does not run continuously on a straight line through Los Angeles. Rather, it consists of the Santa Monica Freeway, running from Santa Monica to downtown, and the San Bernardino Freeway, which starts east of downtown and goes on to Florida. These two freeways are about a mile apart in latitude, with the freeways connected by a mile long north south portion of the Golden State Freeway east of downtown. Consequently, if you were driving on the Pasadena Freeway the governmentally correct way to connect from the Pasadena Freeway to the eastbound Interstate 10 would be to continue southbound (on the Harbor Freeway, which like the Pasadena Freeway carries the "110" designation) to the eastbound Santa Monica Freeway, up the Golden State Freeway and then to the San Bernardino Freeway. This way you have connected directly onto the 10 Freeway, as opposed to using the Hollywood Freeway as a one mile transition road. Of course, doing this probably entails driving an extra two miles, which doesn't sound like much. But during rush hour this officially mandated detour could well mean an extra 10 or 15 minute drive.

So the answer is that the government won't tell you the most direct way to get to the San Bernardino freeway because it has placed numerical correctness over logic and driver convenience. And isn't this how government usually works?

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