Friday, May 2, 2008

Driving In Nashville

Let me just say from the beginning that I don’t like heavy traffic. I think I have always felt this way, although I have lived most of my life in large cities, and you would think I would be used to maniac drivers and high speed merging interstate traffic. Driving on Nashville interstates makes me a nervous wreck.

One can get here from almost anywhere. Three major interstates converge on Nashville—I-40, I-24, and I-65. A commuter can zip from interstate to interstate by means of I-840, I-440, or Briley Parkway. For the Nashvillian, or anyone familiar with the layout of the city, you can create a route utilizing any or all of these routes as well as numerous other 4-lane surface roads to move yourself about the city in what a New Yorker would consider no time at all. Perhaps it is this familiarity that results in the high rates of speed at which I am passed by other motorists.

To save myself, I have taken to the side streets. It takes lots of practice and fortitude to navigate the surface streets of this city. It helps to know the lay of the land. The downtown area is built from the Cumberland River and spreads outward. Because Nashville is built on a bend in the river, the result is like a wheel with the downtown area being the hub and the main roads like spokes in the wheel. A true grid is impossible in this situation. Two roads that might be miles apart on the outskirts of town will only be a few blocks apart in the inner city.
Support for .... nothing?

This is still a relatively easy configuration to navigate, so apparently the city planners go to great lengths to keep you on your toes. This is not as bad as it used to be, but you never know when a one-way street will have its direction changed. Or you may be motoring along, minding you own business and the street abruptly come to an end. This is particularly disturbing when it picks up on the other side of whatever the obstacle is in your way. This is especially true of 8th Ave. On the south side of Broadway out as far as 100 Oaks Mall, 8th Ave goes by the name of Franklin Road. As you make your way into town, the name changes to 8th Ave. So. Crossing Broadway it becomes 8th Ave No until you get to Charlotte Pike where it suddenly stops at the Capitol Building. If you turn left on Charlotte and then almost immediately right onto the ramp to James Robertson Parkway and continue to the first traffic light, you will find 8th Ave No again intersecting James Robertson. Broadway is Broadway downtown, West End Ave in midtown, Harding Road in Belle Meade, and Hwy 70S in Bellevue. Who could keep this straight?
Look, ma, no road.

It seems like there is construction everywhere. One of the worst construction projects since the Romans started building roads was the Briley Parkway endeavor. Construction started sometime in the 1970s and was finally finished last year. As a part of this project I-40 got a new ramp or two. I like to think the powers that be were planning ahead when they stuck up a support beam with nothing to hold up and a ramp that goes to nowhere. In all fairness I must say that Briley Parkway is a fine road to take now. Technically, it loops around the city, but the driver must know that, depending on where you are on the loop, Briley Parkway may also be called Thompson Lane, Woodmont Ave, or White Bridge Road.

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