Saturday, December 30, 2023

Kalamazoo's War on Motorists: The Parkview/Oakland Intersection

The city of Kalamazoo isn't finishing making life worse for motorists.  Its latest target is the intersection of Parkview/Whites Road and Oakland Drive.

Kalamazoo's War on Motorists: Bicycle Lanes
Kalamazoo's War on Motorists: Downtown Streets

This intersection has long been a problem for motorists.  Both roads are major thoroughfares and should be 4-5 lanes to move traffic efficiently through the city.  Sadly, the planners who designed Kalamazoo long ago made the right of way too narrow on most of these roads for this to be practical.  Only Parkview/Whites between Oakland and Westnedge is (mostly) four lanes.  In fact, it was only 20-30 years ago that Oakland (between Parkview and Kilgore) and Parkview (between Oakland and Greenleaf Boulevard) were widened from two to three lanes.

When traffic is heavy, it becomes difficult to move it all through the intersection in a timely manner, and traffic tends to back up on both roads.  To address this problem, a decade ago the city of Kalamazoo added extra through lanes to Parkview and Oakland to double the volume of traffic that could travel straight through the intersection.  The extra lanes end soon after the intersection, so drivers can merge into a single lane once they are safely past the traffic light.

This year, Kalamazoo's city planners decided to sabotage their work from a decade ago.  The extra through lanes have been eliminated by the addition of "bump-outs" at the intersection.  This would seem to create a safety hazard, since most of the lanes are still there, but they suddenly disappear at the intersection.

The motive for the change is baffling.  My best guess is that it is supposed to help pedestrians, on the theory that they can cross a three lane road, but find a four lane road an insuperable challenge.  Not surprisingly, the change has already made the intersection worse for drivers.

To add insult to injury, Whites road will soon undergo a "road diet", reducing from four lanes to three and further complicating life for Kalamazoo's motorists.  Driving in Kalamazoo will continue to get worse as long as the the same fools are in charge of the city.