This weeks blog is going to start off with some visual aids. First off, here is a GoogleMaps image of the i405-i710 exchange:
I tend to use this exchange everyday I drive anywhere since the 710 goes a few blocks from my apartment, and the 405 connects it to the rest of Southern California. Everyday I drive to work I take the 710E to the 405N. It looks a little something like this:
Once a week I try to go visit my bestie in Newport Beach. When I drive home from there I take the 405N to the 710W. Here is what that route looks like:
Ok Shawn, that's fancy and all that, but what's your point? Well it's quite simple, here is what these 2 routes look like together:
What is going on here is that the people trying to get off of the 405 have to crisscross with the people that are trying to get on to it. I don't know who planned this. In a part of the country full of people who aren't really known for their driving abilities, who thought it would be a good idea to put this "cross swap" (phrase I just made up regardless of what the 4,000+ search results say on Google) in an exchange for 2 of the busiest highways in Southern California? This is one of the few places I have ever seen this (if I'm not mistaken there is one close to downtown LA as well, which is just as brilliant).
With how much time, money, and planning that goes into the building of the United States highway system, it amazes me that something like this could be done. Very shockingly, I have yet to see any sort of an accident occur in this exchange, but really, it's only a matter of time. One thing I have seen is a major slow down of traffic due to the "cross swap".
The worst part about the 405-710 mess, the type of vehicle that would be using this the most. Semi trucks are probably the most common vehicle that uses the 710 as it heads to the docks. The distance that one has to do the merge onto or off of the 405 is really only about the length of 2 semi's with a regular trailer (an Optimus Prime if you will. Cartoon version, not movie). I don't have any idea what would happen if they ended up meeting at this point.
The really strange part about this whole thing, I can't really figure out how it is different from other exchanges. I have to really stop and think about how a regular one works in order to figure out why they don't need to do a "cross swap" (that's 3 times now, it's mine!). We drive on highways everyday, but we don't really stop and think about how meticulously planned out they are. Every single detail had to be thought about. The mind really starts to reel when you think about the mega exchanges that have elevated ramps and multi-layers. There are some here in Southern California where I swear at a single point, there are 5 levels of road on top of each other. Yet somehow in the extreme cases, they still didn't have to go with the "cross swap".
I think the point I'm trying to make here is, next time you are driving on the highways, take a moment and just think about how amazing some of the engineering that went into designing the system that we use everyday actually is. It really is one of the greatest feats of modern civilization. But if you're in Southern California, don't think about it too long, or you'll most likely end up in an accident!
P.S. How bad are the drivers in So-Cal? In my first year here, I saw more cars on their roof (completely upside down) then I saw in all 26 years in Colorado before that, and it's never snowed here.