Roadscapes Wednesday: 49th and 50th Geek Alabama Road Drawings


Roadscapes Geek Alabama

I have been drawing roads all of my life, but I have reached my 50th road drawing since I started the Geek Alabama blog!  So in this Roadscapes post, I am featuring my 49th and 50th road drawing.  The first road drawing features a simple 2-lane freeway with a left hand exit for a rest area.  The unique feature is the truck way-in-motion in the right lane.  The second road drawing features a 2-lane highway at a traffic light intersection.  The unique thing here is the one-way bridge for a park road.

If you want to learn more about how I draw my road drawings, click on the link at:  http://geekalabama.com/road-drawings/ or view the SlideShare presentation below!

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Roadscapes Wednesday: Quintard / Greenbrier Traffic Light Still Broken


Roadscapes Geek Alabama

I can not believe some traffic lights here in Anniston still has some of their sensors broken.  And one of the lights with broken sensors is at Quintard Ave. and Greenbrier Dear Road.  I first profiled this light back in November 2012 where a sensor for a left turn signal is malfunctioning.  Also, a sensor to cross Quintard Ave. for Greenbrier Dear Road traffic is also malfunctioning.  Here is video of that, with a car running a red light.

Last week, I went back out and nothing has changed!  All of the malfunctioning sensors are still malfunctioning.  And some cars are still running the red lights because they don’t want to sit there for no reason.  The problem is worse when the traffic light synchronization on Quintard Ave. goes off during the late night hours.

So, is everything going to stay the same or will someone finally fix these problems?  People are running red lights because they know the light is broken.  Is it going to take someone getting killed before something is done?  I hope not!  It could be worse, when many drivers run this light when the power is out.

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Roadscapes Wednesday: Is Southern Suburban Sprawl Killing Us?


Roadscapes Geek Alabama

Here is a great question to ask yourself, is suburban sprawl in the south in cities like Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte, Birmingham, and others killing us?  According to a study from the University of Utah, it is.  The study revealed that residents in sprawling cities are more likely to suffer from societal ills such as fatal car wrecks, high transportation costs, and obesity.  At the same time this study came out from Utah, the organization called Smart Growth America released their list of America’s most sprawling cities.  Number one, Atlanta!  Number two is Nashville, number three is Riverside, CA, number four is Warren, MI, and number five is Charlotte.

Both of these studies should come as no surprise, as cities in the southeastern US are very sprawled.  Sprawl in the Atlanta Metro reaches out for more than 50 miles!  Smart Growth America said that in more compact cities like New York City for example, a child born in poverty has better odds that he/she will become rich.  People living in more compact cities also lives on average three years more compared to people living in sprawling cities.  In the study from the University of Utah, sprawling cities often means more people eat out at fast-food joints and walks less.  And people living in sprawling cities are more likely to be in poverty, because of the much longer distance to get to jobs.

So, are these two studies true, or are they blowing some hot air?  In Alabama, and other southern states.  It is often very true, that you don’t have sidewalks available outside of downtown areas and you have to walk in the grass, that is often filled with broken glass, trash, and even used syringes!  Believe me, I have seen them.  Combine that with drivers, who sometimes throws trash at walkers, honks their horns, or yells out of their windows.  And you can see why it’s dangerous to walk on the side of the road.  In the south, some people actually get in the car and drive, to a walking track, just to walk and get some exercise.  It should be the other way around!

With some people living 10, 20, or even 30 miles away from their jobs, that means they have to drive, and deal with lots of traffic.  When you are driving in your car from home to work, and it takes you an hour or more in your commute to reach your destination, that does not leave you with much time to cook a healthy meal or get some exercise, fast-food joints to the rescue!  In places like Atlanta or Birmingham for example, land to build new homes is very cheap.  And some people can not trust the governments in big cities like Atlanta or Birmingham.  Another problem, crime is up in urban areas and some people determine that urban areas are not safe, that means these people will do anything to live far away from an urban area, no matter how much their health or income suffers.

But I think the mindset is changing, especially in the Millennial age group (people around age 30 and below).  Many Millennials does not want to deal with living miles away from their careers and driving for a long period of time.  If you have noticed, cities like Charlotte, Nashville, and even Atlanta, are investing in new mass transit options.  The results, more people are moving back to the downtown areas, and most of these people are under age 30.  Another benefit to moving back to a downtown area, better social mobility, more sidewalks, restaurants and stores closer together, and more!  More and more Millennials prefers to live in dense, diverse urban villages where social interaction is just outside their front doors.  You only get that in cities, and not in the suburbs.

I found this very interesting study from Nielsen that should surprise you.  Sixty-two percent of Millennials indicate they prefer to live in the type of mixed-use communities found in urban centers, where they can be close to shops, restaurants, and offices.  And 40 percent say they would like to live in an urban area in the future.  As a result, for the first time since the 1920′s growth in U.S. cities outpaces growth outside of them.  In a nutshell, Millennials are tired of wasting time and money driving to do simple tasks like buying groceries, eating at a restaurant, going to the gym, going to an event, etc. They want to be in close proximity to excitement, diversity, and vibrancy.  This is why cities like Austin are very popular with the Millennial age group.

So if cities in the south and in Alabama like Birmingham wants to stay competitive and grow, things are going to have to change!  For one, cities must get their crime under control and improve their schools.  With high crime and poor school performances, Millennials are more likely to avoid these cities.  Which in turn means fewer jobs.  Cities must expand their mass transit offerings!  And cities must give people a reason to live in downtown.  In Birmingham, you have the newly build Regions Field, and more things are coming!  But without a good mass transit system, things are being built in a much more slower pace.  If the state of Alabama would invest in more mass transit like light rail for example, cities would grow faster than they do now!

So, cities in the southeastern USA.  Will will continue what you do now, and risk losing out on growth?  Or will you change, and offer more people a reason to live in a city?  I guess we will see!

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Roadscapes Wednesday: The Weird Alexander City Intersection


Roadscapes Geek Alabama

This week, I wanted to talk about a very unique intersection you will not find anywhere else.  In Alexander City Alabama, there is a traffic light intersection that features two roads, with a train track in the middle.  Both of these roads allows two-way traffic.  The road crossing these two roads and the railroad track is a simple two-way street.  Yes, it’s complicated, take a look at this Google Maps picture below to see for yourself!

city map

The intersection are for the streets of Broad St, Lee St, Washington St, North Central Ave, and South Central Ave.  The intersection also carries AL-63.  The train track in the middle is for the Norfolk Southern line.  And the intersection is just too weird.  If you are on Washington St, Lee St, or Broad St, and if you want to make a turn onto Central Ave. that requires you to cross the train tracks, you have to wait at a protected turn signal.

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Some people do not get the concept of this intersection.  And they will turn right or left on red and stop on the middle of the train tracks until they get a green light.  There are no sensors around the train tracks to detect a car sitting there.  And the only way the light will go green for cars stopped on the train tracks is if a car on Central Ave. pulls up to trigger the sensor.  I am surprised no one has been killed at this intersection yet because someone was stopped on the train tracks waiting for the light to change.

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Sadly, I don’t think anything can be done at this intersection.  You could eliminate either Lee St. or Washington St. and move the train track over.  But that is going to cost a lot of money.  When the planners of the streets planned the original grid, I guess they were not thinking about how this intersection would cause problems.  Yes, there are some signs saying Do Not Block Intersection, but some drivers still don’t know what to do at this intersection.  Maybe one day something will be done to change the configuration of this intersection.

So there, another weird road feature in the state of Alabama.  If this same intersection was in another state, you would not see something like this!

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Roadscapes Wednesday: US 431 Alabama One Of The World’s Most Dangerous Roads


Roadscapes Geek Alabama

Sadly, Anniston and Gadsden can not stay out of the bad news cycle.  I have got something new to add to the bad news East Alabama experience, and this time it involves a road.  According to the World Health Organization, US 431 from Dothan to the Tennessee State Line has been named as one of the world’s most dangerous roads.  The WHO’s “Global status report on road safety 2013″ presents information on road safety from 182 countries, accounting for almost 99% of the world’s population.  The report indicates that worldwide the total number of road traffic deaths remains unacceptably high at 1.24 million per year.  Only 28 countries, covering 7% of the world’s population, have comprehensive road safety laws on five key risk factors: drinking and driving, speeding, and failing to use motorcycle helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints.

US 431 is also commonly known as the “Highway To Hell”, and according to the report, and the website drivingexperiences.com, US 431 in Alabama was given a Fear Factor scale of 4 out of 10.  U.S. Route 431 running through Alabama is littered with crosses in memory of all the lives lost on this deadly section of road.  Voted one of “America’s Deadliest Highways” by Readers Digest in 2000, Route 431 is plagued by hazards including poor visibility, sudden 2-4 lane changes and speeding, all of which contribute to poor decision making and ultimately road fatalities.

Since 2006 the state of Alabama and ALDOT has worked hard to make the road safer for motorists, by widening dangerous stretches and increasing road patrols by State Troopers.  Last year, the United States had 33,808 road deaths, and US 431 was the country’s 4th most deadly road.  Bravo East Alabama, Bravo.  So does this mean Quintard Ave. in Anniston is a part of one of the most dangerous roads in the world?  According to this study, it does.

The reason why US 431 is ranked as one of the most dangerous roads in America and the world, is mostly because of a stretch of road south of Phenix City and north of Eufaula Alabama.  The road featured a dangerous 2-lane stretch that resulted in many people getting involved in crashes.  Today, the stretch is now a 4-lane highway and is much safer.  But there are other stretches along US 431 in Alabama that contributes to the most dangerous ranking.  One stretch is US 431 in Randolph County.

From Google Maps.

From Google Maps.

How about that short one lane stretch in Eufaula.

From Google Maps.

From Google Maps.

The Quintard Ave. Stretch in Anniston can be dangerous.

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The stretch in Attalla where it’s a street is often dangerous.

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The one way streets in Guntersville is also sometimes dangerous.

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And the stretch going over Monte Sano Mountain in Huntsville is also dangerous.

From Google Maps.

From Google Maps.

So nice going Alabama, one of your roads just made the world’s most dangerous roads list.  Maybe ALDOT will concentrate on making US 431 even more safer.  To view all of the dangerous roads in the world from Driving Experiences, click on the link or the picture below. http://www.drivingexperiences.com/content/dangerous-roads/main.html

driving

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