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DAMN THIS TRAFFIC JAM

Untangling the moving mess
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DAMN THIS TRAFFIC JAM

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YOU’RE LATE. Again. And you could kick yourself for being stuck in the middle eastbound lane of LBJ. Why didn’t you take Hillcrest? You wish for carefree abandon and a Kawasaki Voyager to slip through these endless lines of slow-moving bumpers. But barring that, you just keep adjusting your radio dial and switching lanes, hoping to spy a break in the traffic and make your escape.

Sound familiar? It should. For centuries, philosophers have ordained the human condition as the one great common denominator of all mankind. They didn’t live in Dallas. Take our word for it: Surviving traffic is the common thread that brings all men together-in one way or another.

KRQX morning Deejays Dennis Anderson and Ken Baker observe the “car Olympics” every day from 6 to 10 a.m. “Well,” Anderson says, “you’ve got your hurdlers, your joggers and your speeders.” The duo fields calls from listeners all morning-including some who are stuck in traffic. “They just want to talk to somebody,” he says. “We usually play long sets to make it more bearable for them. And we always play upbeat music during the rush hours.”

“The most intense drivers in Dallas are those on Highway 183 between Dallas and Fort Worth,” says Jonathan Hayes, traffic reporter for KV1L radio in Dallas. They drive “with a vengeance” on that Mid-Cities stretch of road. And if that’s not enough to contend with, it’s also the narrowest major highway between the two hubs.

Three times each weekday, Hayes and helicopter copilot John Kolanko watch Dallas and Fort Worth drivers brave the highways-from 600 feet in the air. The most-crowded spots in Dallas, Hayes says, are on Central between Campbell Road and downtown, LBJ Freeway from Central to Stemmons, Interstate 30 from Mesquite to downtown and Stemmons Freeway from Trinity Mills in Carrollton to Walnut Hill Lane.

The worst treks for Fort Worth motorists are Interstate 35 (the “NorthSouth Freeway”), Interstate 30 (“East-West Freeway”) and Loop 820 from Denton to the North East Mall. Hayes says I-35 is worse than usual these days because of construction from Berry Avenue to the Mixmaster.

All over the Metroplex you’re surrounded by terminal traffic tieups. But Hayes is quick to point out that alternate routes are seldom better than the major highways, unless a traffic jam is really bad. “I’ve watched it from the air too many times,” he says. “The drivers see a backed-up freeway and all decide to take, for example, Forest Lane instead of LBJ. The next thing you know, the freeway is clear and Forest Lane is backed up for blocks.”

But, there are a few jams that can be painlessly avoided. “From Mesquite or Balch Springs to downtown,” Hayes says, “most people take I-30 or I-20. But taking Highway 175 could be faster for many of them.” There is also good reason to take alternate routes in bad weather or on Friday afternoons, he says, especially Friday afternoons that are also paydays or before holidays. The worst intersection in bad weather, Hayes says, is Highway 183 and Loop 12.

One escape route that goes shamefully underused is the relatively new Woodall Rodgers Freeway just north of downtown that connects Central with Stemmons Freeway. Woodall Rodgers is virtually never crowded, but many unenlightened motorists insist on driving right into the I-30 Mixmaster south of downtown, Dallas’ own urban Venus’s flytrap. (For years, I-30 was the only way to get from Central to Stemmons.)

And what about you guys trying to get from Bent Tree to downtown? Abandon the traditional route of Preston Road south to LBJ, LBJ to Central and Central into downtown. You’ll probably make it into the office just in time to get your messages. Although there really is no good way to get south, it’s best to avoid the Central/LBJ interchange. Find a less-crowded southern route (these vary on different days) and get on the other side of LBJ as fast as possible. Once you’re past LBJ, the Tollway is usually a good southern route if you pick it up at Forest or Walnut Hill lanes. (A rumor persists that the Tollway, from about Royal Lane all the way to, some say, Oklahoma will be closed this fall for heavy construction. If so, fortunes can be made by enterprising helicopter operators everywhere.) And for you Metrocrest drivers, a hint: To get across LBJ, try the Rosser Bridge, between Midway and Marsh Lane. (It’s still relatively uncongested.)

The Texas Department of Highways and Public Transportation keeps tabs on major-street travel and lets us know just how grim our traffic problems really are. These averages, published in 1983, show that the most dense traffic in Fort Worth is on Loop 820 just north of Highway 183, where 101,000 cars go by in a day. The winning intersection in Dallas is LBJ and Preston Road, where 190,000 cars creep by daily. It’s a great place to put a billboard.

Your best bet to avoid traffic jams is to leave early for work and stay late And it helps to listen to the radio. KVIL, KRLD, KEGL and WRAP have live traffic reports; most of the other stations in town broadcast traffic reports from one of the subscription services, such as Metro Traffic Reports or Traffic Patrol.

But, like all things, misery loves company, so check out the carpools. Ride-Share in Dallas (741-1354) or (817) 870-8095 in Fort Worth will help you find others in your area who are going your way.

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