Today, like many other days, I just had a close call with another driver at a very strange intersection a few blocks from my house. It’s actually a pair of interlocking intersections. Chestnut Street passes under Route 9 and on each side of the underpass there is an intersection with a 3-way stop sign.
Before moving here I didn’t know that a 3-way stop sign intersection was a thing. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered it before. Maybe its not a thing. Maybe it’s a unique creation invented just for our benefit, for the unusual characteristics of this crossroads. Despite the fact that I hate this intersection, I do appreciate the logic of it, and can see how it came to be.
The problem with a four way stop is that the intersections on opposite sides of the underpass are too close together. If there were a 4 way stop, at busy times the waiting cars at each intersection would back up into the opposite intersection. If they were both 2 way stop signs then the people waiting to turn off Chestnut would back up into the opposite intersection.
The three way stop sign solves those problems nicely, works exactly as intended and the two intersections never (or rarely) interfere with each other. There’s just one very big problem. The driving public has no idea what a 3 way stop intersection is.
Every day I drive under route 9 and turn left in front of the cars waiting at the stop sign. My path has the right-of-way – i.e. no stop sign. About once every 5 or 10 times through that intersection, the person waiting at the Stop sign will suddenly step on the gas just as I make the turn in front of them. Inevitably, the person in the other car is yelling and gesturing, certain that they are in the right, and that I’m just a jerk who ran a stop sign and nearly killed them.
Last year, my wife lost her car to that intersection. She was mostly fine. Her car most definitely was not.
So here’s my crowd-sourcing question: Have you ever encountered 3 way stop signs before? If so where?
Just how unique is Chestnut St in Upper Falls? Are we really special or only just a little bit?
p.s. The photo above shows a weird artifact from Google Earth that I’ve never seen or noticed before. The Rt 9 bridge over Chestnut st in the Google Earth image looks extremely depressed, as if Route 9 dips steeply down and then back up as it crosses Chestnut St. In the real world it does no such thing.