Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Where are the most dangerous intersections in Illinois?

...according to the Chicago Sun Times, "the state's top 11 interchanges with the most accidents were in Chicago's suburbs."

This, of course is not surprising, as nearly all of these intersections are situated in long-established, post-War, auto-centric suburbs. Rather than the exurban areas of high population growth, these are places where the design and planning decisions of 40 years ago are showing little in the way flexibility.

Elmhurst, the site of the state's most dangerous intersection (North Ave. & IL 83) is a good example. Low density, segmented functionality of land use has been the rule in the town since the 1950s making transportation development essentially constrained to increasing automobile capacity. The growth of communities miles west of Elmhurst is putting stress on the massive North/83 intersection. The population of Elmhurst has remained stagnant at 42,000 since 1990 while its most dangerous intersection accomodates more than 100,000 vehicles daily.

If you visit the Sun Times' page you will see an interactive graphic that provides maps of each of the intersections. One commonality among many of the intersections in the Top 10 is the fact that they are situated right off the clover-leaf exits of restricted access highways.

This brings up an interesting fact regarding interstate and toll highway systems: they tend to externalize the costs associtated with the risk that is requisite for their efficient functioning. While the highways themselves are generally safe, the places where you embark or disembark are more risky and the public service costs of dealing with accidents and their aftermath are borne by general municipal funds rather than by the state or individual users.

(Linked with Outside the Beltway)