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Old 07-02-2006, 10:28 AM   #1
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Default Intersection was Third Culprit in Big Ben's Mishap

Getting around: Intersection was third culprit in Big Ben's mishap
Sunday, July 02, 2006

By Joe Grata, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It seems every media person in Western Pennsylvania except me, the transportation beat reporter, has weighed in on the now-world-famous accident three weeks ago involving Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

I use the word "accident" loosely because it was preventable and, at the least, the injuries might have been less severe if both parties had played by traffic rules.


Big Ben violated the law by operating a motorcycle with an expired permit and not wearing a helmet under the circumstances. The 62-year-old woman who turned in front of him failed to yield to the oncoming biker.

I'm not making excuses for either party because it could have happened to anyone, including me, at the very same place, the intersection of Second Avenue at the Armstrong Tunnel and 10th Street Bridge.

I speak from experience. Over the past 35 years, I figure, I've driven home from the office that way about 8,000 times in the same direction as Big Ben was headed when the car cut in front of him. Screech! Smash! I've come upon dozens of crashes and witnessed scores of close calls there.

It is an old-style, free-for-all intersection with no left-turn standby lanes, not atypical of numerous other dangerous intersections in a city where streets laid out long ago are restricted physically, lack safety upgrades and are often geometrically convoluted.

At the Second Avenue intersection, left turns can be made from any direction, all from the "fast" lane, which doubles as the through lane. Sight distance is limited emerging from the tunnel. A low-slung Parkway East exit ramp and eastbound lanes pass overhead, restricting natural light and placement of traffic signals and signs.

Going south through the tunnel, there's no-left-turn arrow on the traffic signal or "Left Turn Yield on Green" sign, but drivers encounter both on the opposite side, coming north over the 10th Street Bridge.

Going east on Second Avenue, there's no-left-turn arrow on the traffic signal or "Left Turn Yield on Green" sign, but drivers encounter both on the opposite side, coming west on Second Avenue.

It's easy to see why mistakes are made and accidents happen, especially in a city known for the "Pittsburgh left" by jerks cutting in front of oncoming traffic or making the turn after a yellow light has turned red.

Years ago, before budget problems began to mount, the city assigned a traffic cop to the Second Avenue-Armstrong Tunnel intersection during morning and afternoon rush hours.

Those days are gone.

Lax traffic law enforcement today is a consequence of police downsizing, priorities and unwritten policy. Running red lights and speeding are routinely ignored. (Another woman was run down on Liberty Avenue Raceway through the Strip District last week.)

Pittsburgh's Department of Engineering and Construction has been more than halved. Two years ago, it was rolled into the Public Works Department. A few months before, the last traffic engineer on the city payroll was given a pink slip.

It's no wonder that getting around hasn't gotten any easier, any safer or kept pace with modern traffic practices.

It's also no wonder why out-of-towners and occasional visitors get confused, dread driving in the city or simply stay away.

The fundamental problem extends beyond Pittsburgh city limits.

"Working in the Moon Township/Robinson area, I see this all the time as drivers push the lights or don't seem to know they must stop," Todd Prince, of Brighton, said in an e-mail. "The signals seem never to have been updated for traffic growth over the past 10 years. Don't get me started about the lack of left-turn signals on the Route 60 ramp from the Pointe at North Fayette or getting off the southbound ramps to go to The Mall at Robinson."

I've said it many times, many ways over the years: PennDOT can spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year making physical changes to increase safety, but until it spends tens of millions to upgrade traffic signals for safety and efficiency, we're spinning our wheels.

Highway research statistics show more than 50 percent of all crashes causing deaths (23 percent) and injuries occur at intersections.

Is anybody listening?
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Old 07-02-2006, 10:40 AM   #2
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Default Re: Intersection was Third Culprit in Big Ben's Mishap

I read that article this morning in the PPG. No doubt it's a horrible intersection and some changes need to be made with 2nd avenue.
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Old 07-02-2006, 10:57 AM   #3
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Default Re: Intersection was Third Culprit in Big Ben's Mishap

GREAT GREAT ARTICLE......BUT!!!! Signs and signals are IGNORED by thousands of drivers daily in the area. I truly dont believe slamming Pittsburgh is the answer. The answer is having drivers more educated on the laws...I truly dont believe that CELL PHONES should be used while driving. I dont believe 16yr olds should drive solo. I believe there needs to be a test every 5 years after you reach 60. These are the things that will first change ACCIDENTS, then we need to increase sign and lane changes. We are giving SO MANY rights that WE ALL take advantage of.
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Old 07-02-2006, 10:59 AM   #4
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Default Re: Intersection was Third Culprit in Big Ben's Mishap

Driving while talking on a cell phone is a primary offense on militray installations. Despite that, you see people doing it all the time, and they're almost always doing something stupid like floating/running stop signs or speeding.
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Old 07-02-2006, 12:37 PM   #5
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Default Re: Intersection was Third Culprit in Big Ben's Mishap

man.. you all need to drive in los angeles.... makes driving in pittsburgh seem like a drive through the park.
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Old 07-02-2006, 03:57 PM   #6
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Default Re: Intersection was Third Culprit in Big Ben's Mishap

in a horrible consequence of Joe Grata's article, the Intersection's house was pelted by eggs and feces by angry Steelers fans.
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Old 07-02-2006, 07:33 PM   #7
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Default Re: Intersection was Third Culprit in Big Ben's Mishap

there has been a retraction by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Intersection was NOT pelted with eggs and feces as earlier reported. It was Tommy Maddox's house.
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Old 07-02-2006, 09:29 PM   #8
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Default Re: Intersection was Third Culprit in Big Ben's Mishap

BOOOOOOOOOOOOO, Old Joke!!!
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Old 07-02-2006, 09:50 PM   #9
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Default Re: Intersection was Third Culprit in Big Ben's Mishap

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3 to be 4
there has been a retraction by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Intersection was NOT pelted with eggs and feces as earlier reported. It was Tommy Maddox's house.
Get your facts straight. While Tommy's house was the intended target, the "windy" conditions caused the eggs and feces to be blown off course, missing his house completely.
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Old 07-03-2006, 07:53 AM   #10
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Default Re: Intersection was Third Culprit in Big Ben's Mishap

When I used to work dahntahn, I encountered that intersection daily. It is a bad intersection and somewhat dark due to the overpass. Maybe the city should adjust the lights so that the advance green arrow when making that left turn is a little longer, then goes to a yellow arrow, then to a red light instead of a green with a yield.

I'm all for a law prohibiting cell phone use while driving. I'm not capping on the seniors here, but I see so many elderly people who should be using their free bus pass instead of driving. The reflexes just aren't as good anymore when you reach the golden years and some of them are really a hazard.
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