The Dance of the Daring Automobiles


I am a public transportation advocate, and have little patience for foolhardly plans to just add roads to our network, regardless of harm to the environment, or the availability of more efficient means of transportation.

But I am not a public transportation fanatic, or at least I’m not such a fanatic that I can’t see the benefits of certain road projects.

In Kitchener, I’ve been watching the construction of a new flyover on the Highway 7/Highway 8 interchange in the south part of the city. It’s a project that has been a long time in coming, and which I wholeheartedly support.

Long before work began on the new flyover, the Highway 7/Highway 8 interchange was a safety hazard. Built on the cheap, the two roads meet perpendicularly in a small space. Cloverleafs guide northbound Highway 8 passengers onto the upper, westbound road. Those on the upper, westbound road, themselves hop onto a cloverleaf which swings them around onto the lower, southbound road.

You may or may not be picturing this in your mind already, but what this arrangement means is that the westbound onramp merges onto the road about 75-100 metres away from the westbound offramp. There is 100 metres of common lane where cars, driving off the onramp at 40 km/h, must change lanes with cars and trucks going at highway speeds, some either heading westbound, or having to go onto the southbound offramp, where they themselves have to slow rapidly to 40 km/h.

That there haven’t been more accidents at this site is something of a miracle. Even when the traffic moves well, what results is a complicated dance between through traffic, onramp traffic and offramp traffic, as pairs of cars swap lanes, others slow to merge, and everyone gets a case of the white knuckles.

The flyover corrects this by having the southbound drivers head onto a flyover before the spot where the westbound drivers merge onto the road. The flyover rises at least four storeys into the air, crosses an arterial road, the elevated highway, and two lanes of the ground highway, before settling down and finally merging with the southbound traffic. The result is not only a safer interchange, but a bottleneck removed.

It is also an impressive engineering feat. The fact that construction has taken over two years, so far, illustrates the complexities of building something this massive over two working highways. Even incomplete, it’s a massive structure, rising high over an otherwise open area.

There is not much point to this article, other than to say that there are projects out there, which are needed, and which make even the most cynical stare in awe.

I’ll get a proper picture someday…

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