It took way too long for a frustrating, often dangerous traffic situation in Syracuse, NY, to be remedied.
What did it take?
Two e-mail exchanges, three years apart.
How the solution came about is not as important as what the long-standing problem really symbolizes — a struggling city’s low self-esteem, pervasive apathy and chronic acceptance of mediocrity.
For the past seven years I’ve driven through and walked across a particularly busy intersection a dozen times a week. Harrison-at-Almond is a major connector to hospitals and universities, and is at the foot of a ramp to a highway.
The striping on the pavement of the five northbound lanes faded at least three years ago.
I saw regular incidents of driver confusion, frustration and road rage. Because of ambiguous overhead signs and a lack of paint to clarify lanes and directions, some drivers in the middle lane who had a green light thought the adjacent red turn signal was for them.
So they sat there. And held people up behind them, resulting in horns, shouts and dangerous maneuvering to get around them.
This went on for years, until last week when . . . an e-mail was forwarded.
In 2012, I wrote to the state transportation department about the intersection. The overhead signs and signal heads had recently been re-positioned, but the problem persisted because the lanes weren’t clearly striped. There was a misunderstanding over whose responsibility it was to paint the lanes. Nothing was done.
After that, I did what everyone else did — nothing — except shake my head every time I saw the same scenario of frustration unfold.
Two weeks ago, I decided to revisit the issue and e-mailed the state. A state traffic engineer wrote back and copied a city traffic engineer on the e-mail. After a followup from me, the city acknowledged it was responsible for striping the lanes.
The work was done in less than a day. (The “after” photo is below.)
I’m not pointing the finger at government entities as much as I am at those who live, work, drive and walk near that intersection. I include myself among those I’m disappointed in, since I gave up in 2012 after just one inquiry.
Thousands of other motorists and pedestrians endured that potentially dangerous situation for 1,000 days or more. (The crosswalk paint was basically invisible, and that’s been re-striped as well.)
Unless someone can show me that the city or state ignored years’ worth of complaints about this intersection, I’ll assume no one else bothered to say anything.
Sure, Syracuse has more important things to worry about (see the New York Times “Spike Nation” story about our synthetic marijuana problem). And yes, there are bright spots, energetic residents and business owners who are doing their best to revive a once-thriving place to live and work.
But the Harrison-at-Almond intersection is a clear example that we’ve come to accept here as the norm — an inconvenient, frustrating and unsafe situation that’s easily remedied.
So look around where you live. Are there teeth-rattling potholes, eyesore buildings, litter-strewn roads? Are you dealing with sleazy slumlords, surly parking lot attendants, incompetent contractors?
Don’t expect anything to change on its own. Call or write whoever you have to. And don’t wait three years to follow up, as I did.