On the Soapbox:

How to Negotiate Falls Road in Hampden

by Lynda Lambert
I have now been living in Hampden for a little over two months. So far, I love it. It's quiet where I am, yet near everything. I have a corner store for time of need-- one that's been owned by the same family for 32 years and before that by the original owner. Walking into that store is like walking back in time. It's lovely.

There is really only one problem that I face on an almost daily basis: getting safely across the intersection of 36th Street and Falls Road.

Ever since I can remember, that intersection has been fairly busy. But over the last few years, since 36th became a Georgetowney kind of destination of local "tourists," it has gotten much busier.

If you've never been to the corner from that angle, the problem is this: 36th Street, east of Falls, comes into Falls Road fully 20 feet above where 36th Street, west of Falls, enters in. BUT, they both move on the same light.

Once you live here, you learn fairly quickly how to do it with a small degree of safety.

What you do is turn into the 20-ft lead space and wait for oncoming traffic to clear. This means that approximately two cars can turn before the light once again turns red.

Of course, there are now a great many people approaching that corner who are not from the neighborhood. They don't understand that the oncoming traffic is oncoming.

The first time I made the turn-- and understand that I've passed this corner in many other directions over the 30 years I've lived in the area-- but the first time I made the turn, I almost hit a car, because I didn't expect him to be turning. It didn't make sense that he would have a green light when I did.

So out-of-towners turn as I did that first time. And then they blow their horns and shout obscenities, and one day they will end up in a big pile in the middle of the street. And in the meantime, it's dangerous, time-consuming and a big pain to try and get through the light.

Unlike homelessness or Medicare, however, this is a problem easily solved, if someone in the City government would just realize it exists.

All the City needs to do is make each side of 36th Street at that Falls Road intersection have a separate green. Then put up signs that say, "Oncoming traffic has red light," so that people know they can turn with impunity.

Doing so would be a real help to 36th Street merchants, clearing traffic that stands and stands, waiting to turn. It would be a big help to those who visit those merchants, whether by car or on foot, because it's almost impossible to cross either 36th or Falls and not meet an on-coming car.

And it would allow the people who live and work in the community to breathe a short sigh of relief, knowing that it will no longer take them 15 minutes to get past that light in the morning.

I'd like to think that 2002 will be the year of simple solutions like this one. That all of our problems, both local and national, will be cured by someone just seeing that the problem exists and doing the simple, quick, and reasonable thing to solve it.

This is, no doubt, a pipe dream. But I'll continue to hope.

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This story was published on January 2, 2002.