Now hard to imagine traffic without ‘flyovers’

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We won’t say you take your life in your hands, but does it ever seem like traffic in the Twin Cities is especially hectic and heavy on Friday afternoons?

It certainly seemed that way last Friday, particularly in the vicinity of the Auburn Mall.

Of course, a lot of things could explain that. It was the Friday before Easter, and shoppers were probably stocking up on ham, fake green grass and chocolate eggs.

More people seem to do their banking on Fridays, probably picking up cash for the weekend or depositing their paychecks.

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More people may be leaving work early on Friday afternoons, hoping to get a head start on a ski weekend or an out-of-town trip.

Plus, there is just the pent-up energy of having worked all week and simply wanting to bust loose for the weekend.

But are there really more cars on the road?

We put that question to Jason Ready, an engineer/transportation planner for the Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center, and he kindly looked up some statistics.

He randomly selected Monday through Friday, Oct. 5-9, of 2009, to test the theory.

The data comes from a traffic counter on the Veterans Memorial Bridge at the Lewiston and Auburn town line, which counts traffic going both directions.

Monday: 32,779 vehicles crossed the bridge.

Tuesday: 32,653

Wednesday: 31,970

Thursday: 34,791

Friday: 36,583

Indeed, for at least that week, 1,792 more cars crossed the bridge than on the next-highest day, Thursday, and 4,163 more cars than on the lightest weekday, Wednesday.

The annual average for the bridge was 31,300 vehicles in 2007, the most recent year for which Ready had data.

Another counter just south of the “flyover” showed that Center Street carried an average of 27,400 vehicles per day in 2007, making that junction one of the busiest in L-A.

It’s been nearly a decade since the Auburn “flyover” was completed, and it’s now hard to picture that intersection without it, or imagine what traffic tie-ups would be like with the old four-way intersection.

In 2001, when the flyover was opened, the Veterans Bridge carried an average of 27,830 vehicles daily, or about 3,470 fewer vehicles than it carried six years later in 2007.

According to Ready, traffic falls way off on weekends. For Sunday, Oct. 4, only 24,658 vehicles crossed the bridge.

Construction of the flyovers was controversial at the time, particularly on the Lewiston side.

The original proposal included a sort of traffic circle there that would have wiped out a mobile home park, but would have more cleanly routed traffic onto Main Street.

That $2 million idea was nixed by state traffic planners who didn’t feel it was justified by traffic projections.

At that time, there were also aesthetic objections to the proposed overpasses. Some said they would change the view and the scale of the intersections, making them look more like interstate highways.

Looking at them today, however, the controversial “flyovers” are a much-appreciated part of the landscape, speeding travel between the two cities.

Especially on Friday afternoons.

editorialboard@sunjournal.com

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