San Jose likes to think it’s a big city, and I suppose it is. But it’s got one big problem: driving through downtown will take just as long as driving through the downtown of any major US city, and this is by design. You’ll find yourself sitting at lights just as long as any other city, but there’s no traffic coming in the other direction, and there’s no pedestrians crossing the street.
There’s no one there. The traffic was engineered as if 50% of the population lived downtown, and they were out all day and up all night. But I don’t think even 10% of the population lives downtown.
It’s a strange phenomenon of civil engineering, and if you zoom out a bit, you’ll find many strange engineering choices. Some of these are brilliant, and some are head-scratching, but all are well-executed (a polar-opposite to our urban neighbors to the north, where spaghetti interchanges are de rigueur).
So, here’s a set of unique feats of engineering, all of which are interchanges in the South Bay:
Here’s a “Modified Cloverstack”. Not a big surprise, but see if you can find the outlier ramp.
Next, another semi-conventional but well-executed interchange, a “Directional T”.
For those of you who are easily-perplexed, here’s an epic “Three Level Turbine”.
Here’s a modern interchange, the “Single-Point Urban Interchange” (or “SPUI”).
Now we’re getting to my favorite, South Bay exclusive interchanges. There are no official names for these types of interchanges, so I’ve gone ahead and named them myself.
Here’s a “Holy Trinity” just northwest of the airport.
And last and maybe least, the oh-so special “No-verpass”, where in the immortal words of Sim City, ‘you can’t get there from here’. Yep, I bet there are few if any other places in the country where two major highways cross each other without an interchange.
I realize that there is some crazy stuff up in Oakland and San Francisco, and perhaps I’ll document that in the future.