By Ken Lass
Generally speaking, when you’re in your car trying to get somewhere, stoplights are your enemy. Well, maybe that’s a bit overstated. They are at least a nuisance. After all, they make you stop. And wait. Two things no driver wants to do. Especially when you’re trying to get to work, or to school, or to that doctor appointment, or trying to get your granddaughter to her gymnastics class.
But as a long time resident along the northeast corridor of Highway Eleven in Trussville, I feel compelled to write something I never thought I would. Trussville needs more stoplights. There, I’ve said it. Even though I cringed a bit as I typed the words. I cringed because I have this image of Highway 31 through Hoover, with a stoplight on every block, traffic starting and stopping incessantly. Or Highway 280, where you often have to drive past your destination, get to the next light and make a U-turn. Ugh.
Yet the time has come for rapidly growing Trussville. Much of the city’s expansion is northbound toward Argo and Springville. At peak hours, traffic on Highway Eleven has become beyond heavy. It is relentless. We need more stoplights along that route. You don’t have to take my word for it. Ask any resident of subdivisions such as Sherman Oaks, Carrington Lakes, Stockton, Pepper Tree, Trussville Springs, and many more.
Trying to come out of your neighborhood to merge onto the highway is frustrating at best, futile at worst. Want to turn left? That requires an opening in both lanes. Good luck waiting for that to happen. Your only hope is that one of your neighbors comes by, needing to turn left on to your street. Perhaps they will recognize and sympathize with your plight, stop a bit short, and wave you out. First of all, I’m not even sure that’s legal. Plus, if the drivers behind the good Samaritan decide to pass them on the right as you are coming out, it could really be a problem.
More often, you will give up on turning left and make a right just to get out. It’s not uncommon to wander miles in the wrong direction until you get a chance to double back. I’m luckier than some. There is a rear escape to my neighborhood, though it is circuitous to say the least. It triples the time, and involves a raft of speed bumps and inching your way through a bustling sports park. But it’s a way out. Folks in other subdivisions are not as fortunate. They are held hostage at the Highway Eleven access, hoping for a break in the flow that may never materialize.
The real danger in all of this lies in the growing frustration and impatience that wells up in drivers as they endure such long waits. Not to mention the questionable judgment of young drivers who might not have the experience, concentration or self-control to accurately gauge the speed of oncoming traffic. My greatest fear is that someone who perhaps is running late, and has been holding in place for a long time, will overestimate what appears to be an opening, and bolt out into the path of an oncoming car or truck, causing a serious, maybe even tragic crash. It seems only a question of when, not if, that will happen.
Nobody wants that. There’s no finger pointing here. The only blame lies in the attractiveness of Trussville as a destination for families and young singles. Traffic problems come with growth. Every blossoming city has them. But there is a solution. Stoplights would provide a clear structure for access on and off of Highway Eleven. When you are waiting at a light, you don’t have to wonder if you’re ever going to get a chance to come out. Your time will come.
Of course, I know there is more to the process than just asking for a light. Eleven is a state highway. Neighborhoods must meet a certain threshold of travel density to qualify. I’ve seen the narrow rubber hoses laid out at the entrance to several side streets, registering clicks as vehicles roll over them. Apparently, if you don’t get enough clicks, you don’t get the stoplight. If the city makes an exception for your subdivision, they’ll have to do it for all. Stoplights every quarter mile from Trussville Springs to Carrington. But couldn’t they be synced so that red lights are at a minimum?
It’s not a perfect solution. I have a friend who lives in the Tutwiler Farm district. They actually did get a light, probably due to the emergence of the Homestead Village shopping center across the highway. When I expressed my envy at their good fortune, my friend explained that their green light interval was so short, you have to be among the first three or four cars in line to get out, otherwise you must wait for the next cycle, so it still takes forever.
Maybe there is simply no pleasing us. Too many cars, not enough lanes. So take a deep breath, put on some soothing music, and try to relax. Better to be late than never to arrive at all.
(You can read more from Ken at kenlassblog.net)