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Author Topic: New England meanderings  (Read 4517 times)

Urban Prairie Schooner

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New England meanderings
« on: September 24, 2013, 09:26:41 AM »

Had the opportunity to visit Providence, Rhode Island last week and took the time to do some traveling in the adjacent states (RI, MA, CT, NH, and a tiny bit of ME). This was my first trip to the northeastern US, so obviously what I found to be different/interesting may not be so exciting to those in the know, but here are some observations:

- The roads are surprisingly bumpy and rough, though not as rough as the worst roads in Louisiana. I figured wealthier states = nicer roads. I assume the annual temperature gradient (freezing winters/hot summers) is the main culprit.

- Apparently there are few if any true divided arterial highways in New England. Most multilane surface roads are either four narrowish lanes with a double yellow stripe, which is scary when oncoming traffic is passing you at a high rate of speed. And the road is rarely straight for more than a few blocks at a time. The major exception was US 1 between Danvers and Revere which is your classic (and busy, and scary) Jersey freeway.

- Lots and lots of winding two lane roads between and through towns and cities. No seven lane type arterials in the suburban areas such as you see in Sunbelt states. To be fair, the two lane roads generally had very wide lanes, which allows traffic to pass cars attempting to make a left turn (I saw this occur frequently).

- Apparently New England towns were developed before any sort of a grid system became popular for cities. I heard somewhere that the first roads were laid out where the goats/cattle had made their tracks. Roads rarely run straight for very long.

- The rural freeways are very parkway-like, almost always including a wooded median. I saw very few billboards, even on the surface arterials and the roads leading to the beaches. This is a change from tourist/beach areas on the Gulf coast where billboards seem to sprout like weeds.

- Most freeways had 3-4 lanes per direction; dishonorable mention goes to US 6/Mid-Cape Highway which is a very busy and cramped 2 lanes per direction (and 1 lane per direction on the Super 2 portion).

- Massachusetts places the flashing amber/red intersection caution signal (that, in the South, is usually suspended over the intersection via wires) on a ground mounted pole. I had never seen this before and it is actually quite cool.

- The surface portion of the former Central Artery in Boston is now a nice boulevard that is heavily used by pedestrians. Urban planning best practices in action. Too bad it cost $16+ billion to bury the freeway in the area.

- Square state highway shields are lame. I wonder if dull drivers sometimes confuse them for speed limit signs. To be fair, state highways were well marked for the most part. I especially appreciated Massachusetts' famous intersection signage - it was clear, concise, and very useful for drivers unfamiliar with the area.

- So when is NH going to retire the Old Man of the Mountain from its state highway shield, given that the Old Man has been gone for some time now?

- RIDOT needs to lay off the Arial fonts for its route shields.

- Providence has some surprisingly steep hills east of downtown.

- I am guessing that New England states hide the suburban tract housing and McMansions well (if any should exist). (To be fair, I was more interested in the historic city centers and spent much of my time there.) I don't think I saw any housing constructed later than the 1950s. Some of the architecture is quite impressive and kudos to the folks that live there for preservation of the historic housing stock.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2013, 09:29:39 AM by Urban Prairie Schooner »
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Re: New England meanderings
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2013, 10:32:52 AM »

- So when is NH going to retire the Old Man of the Mountain from its state highway shield, given that the Old Man has been gone for some time now?

Hopefully never.
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roadman

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Re: New England meanderings
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2013, 01:51:18 PM »

Square state highway shields are lame. I wonder if dull drivers sometimes confuse them for speed limit signs. To be fair, state highways were well marked for the most part. I especially appreciated Massachusetts' famous intersection signage - it was clear, concise, and very useful for drivers unfamiliar with the area.

A little known story is that, when Massachusetts first adopted NMSL, the number 55 was added to MassDPW's "numbers you can not use for new state routes" list.  The apparent reason for this, as told to me by a MassDPW engineer in the late 1980s, was the potential for confusion you described.

Your comment also reminds me of a joke.  A (insert your home or favorite state here) state trooper pulls over a car that's going very slowly.  Trooper asks the driver, an 80 year old woman, why she was driving so slow.  She replies "I'm only following the speed limit.  See that sign, it says '18'".  Trooper then explains that that's the number of the route, and not the speed limit.  Trooper then looks at the passengers in the car and asks the driver "Are they all right.  They're not moving."

The driver then states to the trooper "Oh, they'll be OK in a bit.  We just came off of Route 121."
« Last Edit: September 24, 2013, 01:53:31 PM by roadman »
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Re: New England meanderings
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2013, 02:46:36 PM »

It seems like most surface roads are only 1 lane in each direction in Massachusetts, unless it's close to a major intersection. Some exceptions near where I live are MA 28, US 1, MA 16, a small part of MA 114, and Burlington Mall Road. Surprisingly, US 3 (non-freeway) and almost all parts of MA 125 are a single lane each way.
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Re: New England meanderings
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2013, 01:09:54 AM »

Here's a rough estimate of mileage (more precise when available) by road type in CT:
* total state maintained: 3734.28
* freeways and parkways: 635.2
* "Super 2" (divided, undivided, limited access roads): 24.2
* boulevards and non-freeway divided highways: about 42
* everything else (mostly 2-lane roads): about 3035
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Re: New England meanderings
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2013, 08:31:39 AM »

- Apparently New England towns were developed before any sort of a grid system became popular for cities. I heard somewhere that the first roads were laid out where the goats/cattle had made their tracks. Roads rarely run straight for very long.

Well, it was one of the first parts of the country to get colonized by Europeans, so it makes sense.

By the way, it anyone going to say anything about all the rotaries in Massachusetts?
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Re: New England meanderings
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2013, 08:45:48 AM »

- Apparently New England towns were developed before any sort of a grid system became popular for cities. I heard somewhere that the first roads were laid out where the goats/cattle had made their tracks. Roads rarely run straight for very long.

Well, it was one of the first parts of the country to get colonized by Europeans, so it makes sense.

By the way, it anyone going to say anything about all the rotaries in Massachusetts?

Oh yes, the rotaries - they take some getting used to if you're not from the region. Are they more efficient than grade intersections or interchanges? I could see their use at minor crossroads, but the busier rotaries were a cacophony of merging and turning vehicles. I guess you have to be familiar with the traffic patterns therein to be comfortable driving through them.
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Re: New England meanderings
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2013, 12:55:02 PM »

Here's a rough estimate of mileage (more precise when available) by road type in CT:
* total state maintained: 3734.28
* freeways and parkways: 635.2
* "Super 2" (divided, undivided, limited access roads): 24.2
* boulevards and non-freeway divided highways: about 42
* everything else (mostly 2-lane roads): about 3035

that "about 42" strikes me as suspect.  most of the US/state routes through cities are divided four-laners, no?  US-1 for example is a four-lane or six-lane arterial for much of its length.  or are they simply undivided?
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Re: New England meanderings
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2013, 03:42:06 PM »

Most rotaries are okay, but there are two very dangerous ones: 1A/16/60 and the northern end of 128.
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Re: New England meanderings
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2013, 12:45:33 AM »

Quote
that "about 42" strikes me as suspect.  most of the US/state routes through cities are divided four-laners, no?

In my experience, where US 44 and US 202 are multilane, it's mostly undivided.  US 1 through Connecticut is largely 2-lane or 4-lane undivided.
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Re: New England meanderings
« Reply #10 on: September 26, 2013, 01:34:25 AM »

Divided non-freeway highways in CT:
US 7/202, newly built for about 5-6 miles (was undivided previously)
Ummm...

To give you an idea, even the expressway CT 66 continuation of I-691 has a flush striped median, which is referred to in these circles as "undivided".

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Re: New England meanderings
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2013, 01:40:18 AM »

Divided non-freeway highways in CT:
US 7/202, newly built for about 5-6 miles (was undivided previously)
Ummm...
34, New Haven to Derby.
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Re: New England meanderings
« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2013, 02:35:15 AM »

Divided non-freeway highways in CT:
US 7/202, newly built for about 5-6 miles (was undivided previously)
Ummm...
34, New Haven to Derby.
Also:
* Berlin Turnpike
* US 5, from E. Hartford to E. Windsor
* US 6, Killingly
* 32, New London/Waterford
* 159 (forgot about that one)
* 187, a mile or two (ditto)
* 218 (also)
* 17/66, Portland
... so the mileage is probably between 50 and 60 instead of 42.

Boulevards through cities are rare. US 1 may be mostly 4 or more lanes west of New Haven, but it's usually undivided.
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Re: New England meanderings
« Reply #13 on: October 03, 2013, 04:46:29 PM »

Divided non-freeway highways in CT:
US 7/202, newly built for about 5-6 miles (was undivided previously)
Ummm...

To give you an idea, even the expressway CT 66 continuation of I-691 has a flush striped median, which is referred to in these circles as "undivided".

There is no reason why the four-laning of CT-66 and US-7 in Danbury/Ridgefield are not divided.  Even though the Speed Limit is 40-45, you have vehicles going highway speed there.  At some point there's going to be a head-on crash.  The design is the same, 2-lanes each way, highway speeds and abundant land on either side.  The only reason is NIMBYism and the fact the road used to be 2 lanes. 

I know with CT-66, residents saw the plans that called for a divider, they objected and it was taking out b/c residents thought the plans were too grand and big. 

Btw: CT is way behind other states with 4-lanings.  They still prefer no divider or center turn lanes.
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