Chicago-Area Drivers Navigate ‘Confusing' Intersections

Driving on the left side of the road is something you only do in other countries or see in the movies, right? But many drivers in the western suburbs may feel like they’re experiencing this “phenomenon” while utilizing one of the state’s three diverging diamond interchanges.

The interchange, located at I-88 and Illinois Route 59 in Naperville, diverts traffic to the opposite side so that left turns are easier to make. State records also show the number of potentially deadly T-bone accidents on the bridge section have dropped since the interchange replaced the location’s previous interchange in 2015.

“The diverging diamond design is intended to not only move traffic more effectively and efficiently, but help reduce “turning” crashes entering and leaving the expressway to and from the secondary route,” said IDOT spokesperson Guy Tridgell.

However, one driver told NBC 5 Investigates she has seen numerous vehicle accidents on the ramps leading up to the interchange. In fact, IDOT crash data shows the number of accidents on the I-88 west bound ramp at IL-59 increased by five between 2015 and 2016.

“People aren’t realizing that the lane that they are going 60 miles an hour in has ended and they’re going like they’re in their lane and traffic is stopped at the top of the ramp and people are rear-ending the cars that are stopped there,” said Patti Mellott.

NBC 5 Investigates contacted transportation experts and dozens of area police departments to learn what they considered to be the potentially confusing new or old roadway designs.

Drivers on Milwaukee, Damen and North may see a tangled web of cars, trucks, bicycles and people as they converge at one of Chicago’s famous six-way interchanges.

“Locations where you have multiple streets approaching, you are almost confusing for yourself as which way to turn, which street to take?” said P. S. Sriraj, Ph. D. of the UIC Urban Transportation Center.

Although, there is now one less six-way interchange in Chicago. The city’s transportation department reconfigured the converging point of Damen, Elson and Fullerton Avenues in 2017.

Other potentially dangerous or confusing locations suggested by transportation experts and police include:

-Route 14 and Lake Zurich Road in Barrington (Road comes out on a 90 degree curve and there is no light.)

-Route 14 and Hart Road in Barrington (Drivers turning left in front of cars coming toward them that may be hard to see. Improvements are scheduled.)

-Route 53 and Maple Avenue in Lisle (Cars exiting from businesses east of the intersection and backed up traffic on west bound Maple Avenue can create a traffic problem, according to Lisle Police.)

-22nd and Butterfield Road in Oak Brook (The roadway that is in straight alignment changes from 22nd Street to Butterfield Rd. Police said there were 69 crashes at this intersection in 2017.)

-Holmes Ave./Eastern/Harrison in Clarendon Hills (Multiple roads converge into one location. Although, police said accidents are not a major issue due to stop sign enforcement.)

-Far north end of Lake Shore Drive in Chicago (The road curves sharply at the north end of Lake Shore Drive and unfamiliar drivers may be surprised to find themselves in a right turn lane at the stoplight.)

Transportation experts and engineers said another solution to potentially frustrating or confusing intersections is a design that is common across Europe.

Roundabouts are designed to reduce conflicts. Still, there must be enough available land to install a roundabout.

There are currently five roundabouts in Lake County.

“We look at roundabouts for every project to see if it’s a good fit,” said Jon Nelson, the Lake County Engineer of Traffic.

Nelson said the community can be “hesitant” when a new roundabout opens in Lake County. But he said drivers quickly get used to the new designs.

Lake County records show accidents have decreased at Riverwoods Road. and Everett Road. since a roundabout opened in that location.

“Once you get used to it, it’s a very good system to implement,” Sriraj said.

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