Montgomery’s Worst Intersections

Every place I’ve ever lived had its own special archivists devoted to cataloging the many sins of the city’s drivers.

“They drive so slow here!” (Seattle) “They drive so fast here!” (Atlanta) “You can’t ever turn left here!” (Los Angeles) “Wow, you can really see the sparks when they hit those speedbumps.” (Albuquerque) “They drive so fast here!” (Los Angeles)

Montgomery’s no exception. Who among us, be we locals or expats, have not sat over tea or something more high-octane and listened to (if not held forth on) the itemized sins of Montgomery drivers? They inexplicably turn from the middle lane. They don’t know what to do at a yellow light. They stop at weird times. They freak out when someone uses their horn. Etc.

It’s so common to blame a city’s traffic issues on its drivers. If only we’d learn how to follow at an appropriate distance, discover that our brakes work best if applied only when necessary, and resist the temptation to text while driving on I-65, everything would be better, right? Sadly, no. Montgomery drivers (aided by inept politicians that refuse to make it illegal to text and drive) have plenty of failings just like the idiot vehicle operators in every other city in the world. But they’re only to blame for part of our City of Dreams’ traffic nightmares.

To be fair, we don’t really have “traffic” here in the way that major cities do. Which, for anyone who’s ever sat on the 405 or the 285 in rush hour, is a major plus for life in our fair city. Instead, we have hyper-local catastrophe zones created when bad driving meets worse urban planning. We call them Montgomery’s Worst Intersections, and we’re counting them down right here on Lost In Montgomery for your rubbernecking pleasure.

4. Taylor Road and I-85 eastbound. We get it. You don’t have to be ashamed of going to Eastchase now that Earthfare is there. But it’s still the Hellscape and you kind of want to get in and out without anyone knowing about your dirty business. Yet, when you exit the Interstate and turn onto Taylor Road from that far right hand lane, we’d still ask that you pay attention to the sign that says “KEEP MOVING.” Because it means that you should KEEP MOVING, not pause daintily to see how you will get across three lanes of traffic to the Banana Republic. This intersection is one that has actually been recently improved by the addition of the extended turn lane to facilitate actual merging. Now, if someone would just tell the drivers.

3. All of Zelda Road at lunchtime. Your nightmare begins when you try to get off 85 by way of the Ann Street exit. You will be forgiven for thinking you are likely to be rear-ended because, well, that’s what happens when you are stopped on the Interstate. The city planners, bless their asphalt-encrusted hearts, didn’t seem to anticipate more than one or two cars hoping to exit onto Ann Street at any given time. Especially at lunch. Especially with the cornucopia of gross food options south of the freeway. Downtown traffic floods here since the downtown eating options are poor. La Zona Rosa, the Down the Street Cafe, Moe’s, the various fast food magnets — they all lure people with their siren call of lunch. Oh, if you want to go left on Ann, there’s a Wal-Mart, which is always crowded because it’s the cornerstone of the consumer economy.

Should you manage to successfully turn right in search of food, your gauntlet is just beginning. There is an unimaginable 90-degree curve at Country’s Barbecue where cars are flying onto the main road from all angles. Woe unto all who seek to cut across to the secret shortcut. Still on Zelda, you will then endure several blocks of people trying to turn left across traffic into various tiny parking lots — without a turn lane or light in sight. Sad that a street named after one of our city’s most famous and interesting literary figures (well, named after someone who was named after her) is in fact a soulless and congested fast food-pocked deathtrap.

2. The Boulevard and Narrow Lane Road, near the entrance to Baptist South. Let’s say that you were designing byways around a medical center where lots of elderly people and injured people and disabled people and grieving families and small free-range children were likely to be wandering about, particularly going to the CVS across Narrow Lane Road. Now, let’s say that you were also a sociopath. That explains why you decided to run an access road along the Boulevard next to a dubious-looking pedestrian bridge, just up from a crucial turn-in (Normandie Dr.) to the hospital complex. If the five-way stop isn’t already a recipe for wrecks, throw in the general unfamiliarity of the population with service roads running parallel to major streets, and add in a bunch of ambulances and elderly drivers who are either a) terrified or b) trying to be nice and let people out in front of them. This intersection has it all.

1. Was there any serious argument about which intersection would be the worst? If you’ve spent any time at all where Narrow Lane improbably joins both Carter Hill and Mulberry, you already agree with our choice. In the first place, there’s no shortcut around this intersection unless you’re willing to go all the way on the other side of Huntingdon or, to the north, the freeway.

Turning left from Woodley (at Huntingdon) onto Narrow Lane? Break out the books on tape or some podcasts, because you’re going to be idling there on Narrow for a while, wondering what on Earth could be going on at the improbably-named Country Club Shopping Center (where Martin’s is).

The Winn-Dixie in that shopping center is an essential part of the surrounding neighborhoods, a home-from-work stop for everyone whose grocery needs don’t rise to the level of Publix. Then there’s the poor Sonic, whose business has to be significantly depressed by the fact that there’s no obviously legal way to get into and out of its parking lot without getting onto Carter Hill. And the scrum on Carter Hill! The addition of the extra red light in between the other two red lights adds an element of mystery to the whole experience. At one end is a country club and a college campus, while at the other is a hellish commercial set of strip malls and (not too far down Carter Hill) another college campus.

It’s as if someone took a poorly rehearsed but passable high school ballet recital and then, just to see what happened, tossed in a wild colobus monkey. City planners intent on crippling a major urban area would probably come up with something like this intersection to perfectly compliment a city with no functioning public transportation.

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15 responses to “Montgomery’s Worst Intersections

  1. All of the above, plus Vaughn Rd and the Boulevard. I will be very glad when Fresh Market moves out to Perry Hill Rd.

  2. The Fresh Market is moving to Perry Hill? Not that I shop there often but why can’t things move towards mid-town and not further east? Ugh.

  3. Hey Gabbie, that’s closer in – actually in Midtown, as we’ve been defining it – just up from Vaughn Park. Definitely closer than the Boulevard.

  4. Yes, I realized over breakfast that I was confused. I was thinking “Bell Road” when I read Perry Hill. Sorry-I need to make sure I’ve had the proper amount of coffee before unleashing my comments on the internet. 😉

  5. Right now there isn’t much to shop for in Perry Hill/Carmichael Rd. But if you want a dentist or doctor, there are hundreds of them in that area. I don’t know why they all congregate there.

  6. Is the Fresh Market going into the old Bruno’s space?

  7. Yup, Gabbie. Let’s hope it will help rescue the entire shopping center. There’s a Chappy’s Deli, a Christian Science reading room, and that’s about it.

  8. Awesome! For me, any new business inside the bypass is cause to celebrate-of course, there will then be the old Fresh Market building on East to contend with after they move.

  9. The shopping center where FM is presently located is pretty much filled, so I don’t think it will beome a mini-Montgomery Mall.

    Which reminds me: the MM supposedly is sold, again. No word on plans, so I’m not holding my breath on this. We’ve heard this story before.

  10. James Brown, Jr

    Great information!!!
    There are many other stories of note to be told for example the orginal west side of montgomery.
    I would like to be a part of sharing this information.

  11. Re: Taylor Road exit off I-85 Northbound. Technically, those who are headed to Eastchase are supposed to choose the leftmost of the two right-turn lanes; those continuing further south on Taylor may select the rightmost right-turn lane. The exit lanes on the off-ramp are marked accordingly to help those who can’t figure it out for themselves. The powers-that-be tried to help by putting up break-away poles to prevent cars from merging over, but, the poles all “broke away” because stubborn drivers just plowed right through them. Still, I agree that the fast drivers (who use this method as a way to speed around those who refuse to turn right-on-red from the other turn lane) are not nearly as annoying (and dangerous) as the ones who STOP in order to try to merge.

    • There are fast drivers, and there are half-fast drivers around here. 😉

      Despite that “keep moving” sign in the right lane, I don’t trust what’s coming on my left and I at least slow down. Habit.

      And attempting to jump three lanes over to get to Eastchase is suicidal. So, I avoid Eastchase unless there’s absolutely no alternative other than going to P-ville.

  12. I actually wrecked a City of Montgomery Traffic Engineering Truck at I-85 and Taylor because of one of these idiots who can’t, or refuse, to read the Keep Moving sign. Like Jay above, I don’t trust the drivers coming from my left so I looked over my shoulder to check for traffic, then I rear-ended the person who came to a COMPLETE stop in the KEEP MOVING lane. I remember the “break away” posts. They lasted…2 weeks, maybe? And I see people turning right and left from middle lanes daily. My biggest gripe is held especially for the people who have forgotten that it is perfectly legal (and courteous to other drivers) to turn left FROM a one-way TO a one-way at a red light! Let’s go people! Try remembering what you read in your driver’s license test book will you? But, having said all of this, I must agree that the drivers aren’t the sole problem. I agree with above statements that a lot of the confusion and mishaps are due to poor planning, development and personnel in the respective departments. Great post guys, thanks for enlightening me.

  13. One more thing about the Eastchase hellscape. It’s difficult to get out.

    Leaving, it seems logical to turn right at Wendy’s. But no! it looks like a road but actually is a turn into the Wendy’s parking lot.

    So next time you go a little further and you remember seeing Rooms-To-Go. Turn there. However, the two sides of the building are absolutely identical, and you’re up against an optical illusion.

    Finally, on perhaps your 20th trip to the Hellscape, you figure it out. And then the Powers that Be erect a new building that alters the rules.

  14. You definitely picked out some of the worst ones. When I first moved to Montgomery, the pair of traffic lights at Carter Hill / Narrow Lane and Carter Hill / Mulberry freaked me out. The lights change in such a way to accomodate traffic into that small space, but that makes the sequence abnormal.

    And I completely agree with I85 and Taylor Road. KEEP MOVING, people. And turn right on red. Please.

    The breakaway posts were hilariously pointless, though. I guess the city decided it wouldn’t do service to the budget to replace them after the millionth time.

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