Doglegs on streets to #slowthecars

Member submitted question:
Can you help me with resources to address the crazy, wasteful McGilchrist project in my town of Salem, Oregon. I am the leader of our local conversation group and we are trying to engage with this and at least try to bring the cost down, which is currently up to about $51m (much higher than when Chuck wrote about it). One of the aspects of the project that makes it so expensive is that part of the plan is to eliminate a dogleg where 22nd St. intersects with McGilchrist. Here is a map where you can see that:

22nd St is classified as a “collector street” but it goes though a low-density industrial area and doesn’t seem to carry that much traffic. I looked up traffic accidents at this intersection and there has only been one in the years 2007 to 2020 and there was not a serious injury.

The plan is to eliminate the dogleg to make 22nd continuous and put a traffic light at the intersection. I understand it will involve having to purchase quite a bit of right of way. We are trying to find out the cost of just this one part of the $51m project. We assume it might be many millions.

Here is my question for Strong Towns: Is it really a safety improvement to eliminate doglegs? I might argue that it is safer to have people stop at stop signs and proceed with caution as they must do now, than to have people speeding up to get through yellow lights and running red lights, etc. In short: what’s wrong with doglegs? I don’t get it.



  • Comment author
    Norm Van Eeden Petersman
    You're absolutely right to question the removal of the dogleg segment of that particular street. There doesn't seem to be any justification for removing it. The funds would be better spent on a host of other priorities. I'd encourage you to pass along the two articles I've attached below to anyone who will listen - particularly Daniel Herrige's piece that I've drawn a couple quotes from below. 
    zombie ideas continue to drive decision-making, simply through inertia and a lack of political consensus around alternative approaches. This is the world in which a deadly road gets reconstructed somewhere every day with an even wider, deadlier design, not because anyone soberly concluded it was necessary, but because the money was there and so was "the standard" in a book on a shelf at City Hall.
    We need a better common knowledge that is accepted not just by professionals, but by the public and the elected officials who represent them.
    “If we want drivers to slow down, we don’t ignore human behavior and the 85th percentile speed,” said Strong Towns president Chuck Marohn. “We change the street design to make it feel less safe for drivers. In other words: we change the street design to reflect reality.”
    It only took one month for El Paso drivers to return to their normal speeding habit after a speed trap was enforced. If El Paso truly wants to slow down cars, they’ll need to change the design of the street. 
  • Comment author
    Norm Van Eeden Petersman

    What do you think? Do you have any other thoughts on this question? Feel free to add your comments below

  • Comment author
    Jim Scheppke

    I have learned that the amount budgeted to "realign" the dogleg (the term they use): $10.4 million! And it may be higher because they may not have included all the right-of-way they plan to buy for the entire project (around $5 million for that) some of which may be needed for this. Still, $10.4m is a breathtaking amount, it seems to me. 

    What is the problem they are trying to fix? If it is a safety problem, does the crash data justify it?

    I need to correct the statement I made above about crashes and injuries at the dogleg from 2007 to 2020. I got better information from a knowledgeable source. There were more crashes than I stated above, a total of 16. Here is a summary of the data I received. Looking at these numbers, I would still contend that there is not a serious safety problem here that justifies spending $10.4 million to "realign" 22nd St.

    I would love to get Chuck's opinion on this! What's wrong with having a dogleg?

    Total crashes 16
    Total rear-end 7
    Total turning 7
    Total backing 2
    Ave. crashes/year 1.2
    Fatalities 0
    Serious injuries 2
    Minor injuries 9
    Total injuries 11
    Ave. injuries/yr. 0.8
    Involved bike/ped 0
    Involved large trucks 0
    Involved cars, pickups 16
    Years with no crashes 3
  • Comment author
    Charles Marohn

    Removing doglegs is one of those traffic flow obsessions. Widen the street and speed up traffic, then doglegs become really dangerous. Thus removing them is orthodox. 

    This project is really frustrating. I'm sorry.


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