Navigating I-195 Through New Bedford Is a Nightmare [OPINION]
I commute from my home in Dartmouth to the WBSM studios in Fairhaven every morning and make the return trip in the afternoon. I have been doing this for about a year and a half since selling my house in the North End of New Bedford. The ride to the office each morning along I-195 East is generally pretty pleasurable. Traffic is light. The ride home in the late afternoon is a whole different story.
When did I-195 in New Bedford become like the Los Angeles Freeway? I enter the westbound side of the highway by using Route 240 in Fairhaven. Almost immediately after doing so, traffic begins to slow down and back up as I approach the on-ramp from Coggeshall Street. The situation gets worse as traffic from Route 18 and Cedar Grove Street enters the mix.
The highway is only two lanes in that area. Confusion often reigns up until the Route 140 ramps, where the highway widens to three lanes. The problems on the eastbound side are no better with the 140 interchange and the exits for Penniman Street, Route 18 South, and Washburn Street creating dangerous traffic conditions.
A steady stream of vehicles enters the highway between those exits and on-ramps, most having to squeeze into two heavily-traveled lanes. Compounding the situation is that many drivers have forgotten how to properly merge into highway traffic, failing to yield to the traffic flow. This behavior often results in vehicles in the travel lane having to slow or even stop to accommodate them, creating backups. Add a minor fender-bender to the mix, and the entire thing comes to a screeching halt.
Other than avoiding I-195 altogether in the late afternoon, there are few alternatives for passing through the city on my way home to Dartmouth. Delays on I-195 create a nightmare for local traffic on Coggeshall Street. Route 6 is an option, but bridge traffic can make that difficult, too.
The late New Bedford City Councilor Willie Saltzman used to rail against the "sh--house engineers" who designed the highway system that dissected New Bedford years ago. He was right. But how do you upgrade I-195 without widening the highway? You really can't unless you replace the highway bridge that crosses over Route 18 and the water.
An immediate remedy might be to install traffic lights at the entrance to the highway from the heavy feeder on-ramps. Many cities with similar traffic issues have done this, and it seems to help. A stoplight would allow a single vehicle to enter the highway at a time. It would also force those vehicles to yield to the flow of traffic.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.