This was not a good summer for the new Porter Avenue roundabout (Gateway Project). Ever since the project was completed, there have been mishaps, including drivers getting confused upon approach, jockeying for lanes, and even street signs mowed down (see inset photo).
A few months ago, orange safety barrels were laid out in order to block the right lane, and white striping was added. This was done to narrow the entranceway leading to the roundabout, from two lanes to one. It’s anyone’s guess how long the temporary solution to the problem will last. Plus, the solution doesn’t even seem to be a solid fix. The other day, as I was biking to LaSalle Park, I noticed that a driver was going in reverse, back up the ramp because he had taken the wrong exit – instead of going to the Peace Bridge, he ended up on the exit for the I-190. A couple of months ago, oversized signs were painted directly on the road, to signal to drivers that they were heading the right way… or the wrong way as was the case with the driver that I witnessed going in reverse.
The problem from the beginning was the way this was all mapped out. People have a hard enough time navigating roundabouts. So when you add a couple of curveballs to the mix (atypical exits), it creates chaos. These exits are jumbled together and not spaced out like the roundabout at Gates Circle, for example. Not only are drivers heeding cars already on the roundabout, they are trying to figure out which lane they should be in to get to their intended destination – LaSalle Park, the I-190, or the Peace Bridge. Obviously this was too much for drivers to handle, hence the new traffic barrels, striping, and barrier fencing.
As for the pedestrian and cycling aspect, that’s even confusing. The designated bike-ped sidewalk on Porter Avenue continues straight into Front Park, where there is no way to get to LaSalle Park without backtracking to Lakeview Avenue. That is where cyclists will find a crosswalk that takes them to the south side of Porter Avenue, where the bike-ped sidewalk continues on to the park. There is a small directional sign at the intersection that designates “Shoreline Trail”, which is nice, but if you don’t know what “Shoreline Trail” is, it’s a bit pointless. Cyclists looking to navigate to the new ped-bike bridge will probably not understand that they must follow the Shoreline Trail to get them to their intended destination.
It appears to me that the traffic engineer that designed this plan was in over his or her head. What is most unfortunate about all of this is that it’s intended to be the “gateway” to the waterfront and to the Peace Bridge. It’s supposed to look nice, and it’s supposed to work safely and efficiently. Unfortunately it’s a big clusterf#@k. Hopefully there’s a solution, and we won’t have to look at the temporary mess of barrels and barriers that are in place for another summer. Better directional signage for cyclists would also be handy.