Paved With Good Intentions: The Finalists

It wasn’t easy picking the finalists for our “Worst Roads in America” competition, but our intrepid judges Genevieve Giuliano and Mohja Rhoads, top transportation scholars at the University of Southern California, made their decisions and selected the posts below. Now it’s up to you to vote for the winner in the comments section.

1. Vicki

The on-ramp to the Beltway near the Woodrow Wilson bridge headed out of Alexandria, Va., into Maryland made me meditative. This scenic two-mile stretch of the on-ramp to I-495 has been a favorite place to while away an hour or two in my car pondering Buddhist philosophy as I watch a caterpillar crawling past me and 300 other cars stuck at the same intersection. Green light, red light. A fleeting chance to pass through three intersections. Another light change. Now the ethereal cacophony of honking drivers hoping to enter the on-ramp into I-495 rush-hour traffic at a rate of 5 miles per hour. Life is random and beautiful. Construction workers on this stretch of road also lean to zen Buddhism as they examine the weather, the car dealership across the street, and each other, slowing the rhythm of their months of work.

2. Brendan

The Tobin

I take the road most traveled,
With pot-holes galore and water dripping,
The pavement shattered,
The workers lost and mingling.

I take the road most traveled,
With the two levels crumbling,
A two-hour commute with drivers enraged,
And the fast-pass gate shuttering after every car.

I take the road most traveled,
The tourists lost and clueless,
Backing out of the fast-pass lane confused,
With the road trembling all the while.

3. Daniel

The “Big Dig” — the megaproject to reroute Interstate 93, the chief highway through the city of Boston, into a 3.5-mile tunnel under the city — has amassed an infamous reputation. As the most expensive highway project in the U.S. — the total now stands at a staggering $22 billion — it gave cause for longtime Congressman Barney Frank to quip, “Rather than lower the expressway, wouldn’t it be cheaper to raise the city?”

What truly makes this among the worst stretches of highway in the U.S. is for all the project’s lofty aspirations of alleviating the chronic congestion on I-93 that was predicted to have 16-hour traffic jams by 2010, the project has incurred criminal arrests, escalating costs, death, leaks, poor execution, use of substandard materials, and has had negligible impact of traffic. As my mother would testify to, trips at rush hours are longer and more congested, rather than less.

4. Raj Pandravada

Sweet Eighteen: On the Miserable RT-18 Through New Brunswick, N.J.

Oh eighteen,
For so long
Under construction
You have been.
It’s been seven years, they say
Since you were last free.
Only one lane each way,
All dust and no glory,
You lay there bare
With bumps and potholes,
And no one seemed to care.
For my rattled nerves and bones
Lately it’s been kind of alright.
There have been some repairs,
Usually in the dead of night.
And yes, now the lanes come in pairs.
Fleeting, I am sure is this respite,
For I know that come winter will appear
Your tempestuous mood and dark side.
We’ve lost all hope, I fear.
Eighteen, you miserable route,
Taking us from Brunswick
To Route 1 North and South
And I-95 to the city.
But hey, that’s another messy story!

5. David D

Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, especially the stretch between 70th and 30th Streets, appears to be host not only to the Double Parking Championship of the World, but also, as a bonus event, the Triple Parking Championship of the World. That these prestigious events take place year round is a tribute to the borough, but for cyclists like myself they represent more than a little threat to life and limb.

6. mike

I am forced to nominate, as nobody has been brave enough to contemplate its horrors, the stretch of I-80 that runs through Nebraska. Iowa is somewhat flat, but at least there are things (barns) to look at. Colorado and Wyoming have mountains and other fun stuff like that. But Nebraska? Nebraska has a spirit-crushing desolation that stretches for six hours. Nebraska has signs that torture you with slogans such as “You are Nowhere.” Nebraska has roads so straight, flat, and boring that it slowly breaks you down until you’re ready to drive your car into a tree. Only problem is that you are in Nebraska, and there is nothing to drive your car into.

7. Eric Schwartz

No one should ever drink and drive. This maxim is rarely disputed. However, after becoming too familiar with the cluster “truck” that is the tangled morass of merges leading to the Pulaski Skyway in Jersey City, N.J., I now truly worry about those drinking while paving. The result is just as dangerous and induces a similar pang of paranoia as each set of headlights bears down on you like a death horse bound to clip your trajectory at unholy angles and herald the coming of three more horsemen of the “Pulaski-lypse.”

Jersey City, this is an impasse as it is. Why not just rip it up and start over again? It would be safer as a molten gorge of blacktop surrounded by the famous N.J. “orange cones” than as the foyer to the afterlife that it is today.

8. Joe

When I first moved to Providence, I hoped that the on-ramp to I-195 East would be re-opened by the time I graduated. As the years ticked on, I thought it wise not to tell this to my adviser, for fear that he (conspiring with the DOT) would keep me from graduating. Now I have my Ph.D., and all I hope when I drive along Gano Street toward 195 is that one of the kiddie-pool-sized potholes will not swallow my Zipcar … or that if I am really lucky, maybe one of the concrete crevasses will return the tire, hubcap and all, that it ripped from my housemate’s car last winter. As snow and rain slowly shred the asphalt to gravel, this former construction site has turned into a destruction site. I’m leaving town this summer for a new adventure — if only I can find a ramp onto the highway.

9. Bill

There is a historical precedent to this nomination: it signaled a start to the end of British rule in the colonies. MA-2 is blessed with so much history: Walden Pond, Johnny Appleseed‘s route west, and the Minutemen’s first stand. But for my clan, everyone who came north from Florida had to ride this gauntlet with my cousin Mary Beth from Logan to Leominster. [It has] Narrow lanes with barriers designed to psychologically reduce speeds that appear to have no effect on the locals and those wondrous devices in lieu of traffic signals — the traffic circles, roulette wheels for adventurous visitors as round and round you go and where you come out only the Lord knows. It’s better than any Six-Flags ride and best enjoyed with rain or snow and a splash of Irish whiskey.

10. t paciello

The Cross Bronx Expressway. An oxymoron if ever there was one. It is a symphony of delay, dereliction, and despair. You get your first introduction by sitting in a cacophony of traffic at the George Washington Bridge toll plaza. The number of roads that funnel their cars to “the Bridge” look like a half-eaten bowl of linguine. Then the true nightmare begins as you hit New York City and begin the slow, desperate crawl through the Bronx. You can only wonder what Robert Moses was thinking when, like a kid with a shovel at the beach, he just dug a 100+ foot trench through the borough, displacing thousands of families so that hundreds of thousands of cars can crab their way at speeds upwards of 4 m.p.h. while being whipsawed by 48-foot tractor trailers arriving from points south and east after many hours of caffeine/Red Bull/?-aided driving alertness. Oh, and that is on a good day!

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

 

COMMENTS: 146


  1. J. Daniel Smith says:

    (rather off-topic I supose)

    #7 (Eric Schwartz) “No one should ever drink and drive. This maxim is rarely disputed. … ”

    Just to be clear, “drink[ing] and driving” is perfectly legal in most (all?) States; driving DRUNK (definition varies) is illegal.

    This isn’t to say that completely avoiding driving after drinking wouldn’t be (very) prudent.

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  2. Tom from Wisconsin says:

    I have to vote for Vickie.

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  3. the Gooch says:

    6. Mike

    This is the dumbest argument I have ever heard.

    I-80 in Nebraska can get you from Omaha to Kimball (~450 miles) in under 6 hours. The surface is fine, and there is no traffic.

    Nebraska is not flat and empty–I-80 follows the Platte River valley, which is very wide and flat. If you would like scenery on your trip across Nebraska, get off I-80 and see the very nice scenery of the Sandhills by taking the 2-lane highways through Valentine and Chadron. With the scenery, you also get the opportunity to have stop signs, get caught behind farm implements traveling 15-20 mph tops, and the time it will take you to get across the state will double from 6 hours to 12.

    Obviously, your beef is not with the actual road of I-80, which is safe, efficient, and well-maintained; you dislike the geography of the Platte River Valley in Nebraska. Don’t conflate the two.

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  4. David says:

    #5 has merit but when it comes to double- and triple-parking if fifth even as bad as thirteenth from 40th to 60th, the commercial heart of Boro Park? Is it religious extremism that makes people inconsiderate drivers or do inconsiderate drivers flock to ultraorthodoxy in religion also? No matter. When there is only one lane passable and the cars have to take turns, or when you need to find FOUR people to move their cars because you were so STUPID as to park legally….

    #10 also holds some “fond” memories for me (quality time with my dad, going 3 miles in only two hours).

    But I will have to cast my vote for #1. The special meditative quality of any traffic jam within 30 miles of DC elevates this one above all others.

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  5. Ben says:

    Having driven nearly all of the nominations, I gotta go with #10, the Cross-Bronx Expressway. To be avoided at all costs!

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  6. Brian F. says:

    I vote for “t paciello”, as I can attest to the nightmare that is the Cross Bronx Expressway.

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  7. a says:

    4. Oh, 18, you rascally road!

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  8. Sean S. says:

    I vote #6.

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  9. Alistair says:

    I live near MA-2 and can attest that nothing slows us down. (You’ve heard the terms for Massachusetts drivers — they usually begin with the start of our state name and end with ‘-tard’ or ‘-hole’…) But then I’m one of those invading Brits, for whom a traffic circle is no big deal. You should see some _real_ traffic circles ;)

    On the other hand, I drove the GW Bridge and Cross-Bronx expressway ONCE and vowed never again. (Thankfully I then learned better ways to get into and around NYC. Tappan Zee to get around the city, Cross County to Henry Hudson to get in and out.) So that’s what I nominate.

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  10. Michael says:

    I went on a drive from Cleveland to Nebraska to visit my brother when he lived in N. Platte. The Iowa portion was bad, but the drive through Nebraska felt like it took twice as long as it actually did. Later my brother and I drove from N. Platte to Denver to pick someone up at the airport. The only thing that broke up the monotony of that drive was miles of cattle stench.

    At least the speed limit was reasonably high.

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  11. charles says:

    #6 is my vote – excellent. Even better that it brought protest. And the gooch should note that a road’s impact on a driver is heavily dependant on the local geography. Don’t believe me..try hairpins in the mtns, let me know what you think. Flat for miles is a worse nightmare though.

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  12. JG says:

    Can I vote for Boston in general? After moving here 7 years ago, I emerged from a Big Dig tunnel trying to follow internet driving directions, ending up at the corner of Tremont and Tremont.

    #2 for the general quality of Boston’s roads (bridges) and #3 for the general quality of Boston’s urban planning.

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  13. Craig says:

    I have had the sad fortune to have traveled on four of the nominees:

    Vickie (I-95, Alexandria), Rak (Rt 18, New Brunswick), Joe (I-195, Providence), and T (CBE, New York).

    While I would normally hold in favor of the regional champion (I-95, Alexandria), honesty forces me to admit that I found the CBE to be the scariest stretch of road I have ever traveled. T neglected to mention the burned out wrecks that dot the shoulders of the CBE … with entirely too much time to contemplate their driver’s fates, and ones own fate.

    CBE, for the win.

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  14. Chad Bergeron says:

    Points to #3 for highlighting how the best intentions can take you further down the wrong road. The major highways in eastern MA are like the lines on a target scope, all narrowing to pinpoint on the mess of misrouted traffic and unusual intersections known as Greater Boston. This ties in with my other nomination, #9, which starts with the ugliest ‘rotary’ I’ve ever seen, the conjunction for 2 and 16 at Alewife. when you have two roads going across it and about a dozen lights to direct traffic in, out, and across, the word ‘rotary’ is like calling the Gordion Knot a ball of string. Following 2 into Concord you come across what really turned the British back to London, a three lane left hand near 90 degree turn in the middle of a major local highway, complete with traffic lights that are only brief to Rip Van Winkle. After that you get to thread the needle-narrow lanes and encroaching barriers that Bill alluded to as ineffective speed deterrents. What works much better are the tiny side streets and driveways that people come blasting from without care for who else is on the road. Should you live long enough to get there, the Concord Rotary presents new joys to the uninitiated interested in the panoramic views of gridlock traffic.

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  15. Brian Boyd says:

    Let’s go with the CBE … Scary stuff, that one is.

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  16. K says:

    To add to #14′s post, I would pick “event horizon” as the description of the layout of the roads of Massachusetts. The black hole at the center (the Big Dig) is where all of the funds that should have been used for maintenance and upkeep if the roads in the remainder of the state went.

    I travel up and down the eastern seaboard as well as to western NY pretty regularly. While traffic in the NYC and DC areas can indeed inspire grown men to cry, at least the tears would end up splashing on a roadway whose surface was in relatively good shape and had seen a paving crew recently. In MA, it’s difficult to find a road that isn’t suffering from frost heaves, potholes, inadequate signage (marking the street you are on is deemed “too expensive”), or a work crew who have been “working” on the road for at least a decade. And let’s not forget the state police office making overtime while sitting in the car watching the road crew, er, working detail and directing traffic.

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  17. JC says:

    #6 – Mike

    As it truly is the most desolate, lonely habitable place in the States.

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  18. Jamie says:

    Craig@9:

    The CBE hasn’t looked like that since Rudy Guilliani’s first term as mayor (my wife’s from Orange, CT, so I get to make the drive from Fairfax, VA to CT several times a year…the difference from Ed Koch’s NYC to Guilliani’s is astounding, he may have been reviled prior to 9/11, but he cleaned the city up). As someone who has driven all the stretches on the East Coast noted above, it’s between Boston and DC for me, though NY’s insanity with putting yield signs AFTER a merge never ceases to amuse.

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  19. Jamie says:

    That should have been Craig@14.

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  20. Kate says:

    I’m with you #6. I’ve started taking I-70 through Kansas instead, and that’s saying a lot.

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  21. ohiomeister says:

    #3 Daniel is simply wrong and does not deserve inclusion on the list. The Big Dig, for all its many drawbacks and cost overruns, has indeed decreased commutes into the city from the south on I-93 and the Ted Williams tunnel to the airport has greatly decreased the amount of time it takes to get to the airport on the Masspike, I-90. Not to mention replaced the cacophony of honking atop the Freedom Trail near Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market with the beautiful Rose Kennedy Greenway. It’s impact on the surface beauty of Boston has been absolutely transformative.

    I will vouch for those nominating the Tobin and Rt 2 at Alewife. Those suck. But listen, Hub-phobes, they are not in the same category as my two votes:

    #1 Beltway on-ramp
    #10 CBE

    Driving either of those are life-altering experiences.

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  22. Deborah says:

    My vote is for #6. What beautiful despair.

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  23. Laura Bruno says:

    Maybe the Seattletimes can piggy back off this article. I bike around the city to and from work with a death wish each day, thanks to all the deep potholes, cracks in the street, and overanxious caffeinated Seattleites. Honorable mention to the west coast please! Hello…earthquakes!!

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  24. DS says:

    No nominations west of Nebraska? Was LA excluded for conflict of interest reasons since the judges are from USC??

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  25. frankenduf says:

    this post has the most yuks per traffic story ive ever had- gotta vote for t paciello- dude, that linguine line cracked me up :)- cheers

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  26. Daniel says:

    I-495… Vicki’s choice. Absolutely no doubt about it!

    btw… I wonder if NYC roads are going to have an advantage, given the venue.

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  27. Carolyn in Baltimore says:

    While all the entries are horrific and poetic (and being from NJ w/ New Englander as family I have driven on many of these forsaken roads) I have to vote for Vicki’s entry in Virginia.

    Driving around DC in Virginia is what strikes the most fear and loathing into me, and yet Vicki was able to give me a new perspective on VA driving that I will attempt to emulate when next I am forced to drive there.
    Whiel Rt 18 in New Brunswick has always been hellish, and NY area ‘expressways’ are something to avoid if possible, my worst vision is of Northern VA traffic and the inability to get where you’re going in a Kafkaesque parody of driving.

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  28. Marc says:

    #2 is where its at

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  29. Scott says:

    Vicki gets my vote. Her “Zen and the Art of Transcendental Traffic” is a must read.

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  30. BobE says:

    in re 6….I once drove into a town in northwest Nebraksa and took a photo of a sign. It’s the standard “Attractions” sign that usually lists things like churches, malls, interesting exhibits (“Carhenge” in Alliance, for example). In the case of this town, which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty…..they listed no attractions at all.

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  31. Leigh says:

    I am going to have to go with #6. We drove I-80 when we moved to California a few years ago, and I have never felt so alone in my life as I did along that interstate in Nebraska.

    However, if you are lucky to drive it during a thunderstorm (that accounted for about 1 of the 6 hours we spent on that road), it certainly breaks up the monotony. (Our son was hoping for a tornado…no such luck)

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  32. Jimbo says:

    I’m torn between the Tobin Bridge and Route-18. I grew up on NJ and currently live in Boston. Needless to say, both poets have created substance that are relevant to my everyday commuting struggles. I suppose I’ll hand my vote to #2 since it was the 1st one I read. Sorry Raj!

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  33. Mike says:

    # 2

    Boston you’re my home, well done.

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  34. Bob Stoloff says:

    My vote is for number 2. Not only do you contemplate falling through the potholes and into the water below, you also get to watch half the freakin’ population jump off the bridge every time the Red Sox lose a game.

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  35. Jeff W says:

    #7. The NJ highway system is like a box of chocolates — you never know where you’re going to get.

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  36. Anne W. says:

    #6 Mike

    Have you ever driven that stretch of highway in a pea-soup fog? Boredom vanishes, along with everything else. You can’t even see the exits in time to get off. The only thing to do is keep going, hoping there’s nothing slow in front of you and nothing fast behind you.

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  37. James F. Cook says:

    #4 Raj Pandravada for the poetry and #2 Brendan for the appropriate literery allusion, but they are all brilliant. Thanks. I am surprised no one wrote up contenders for I-80 between Richmond, CA and the Bay Bridge or “the 405″ anywhere – the only freeway I know that has traffic 24 hours a day, including 3 am on a weekday by LAX! Finally, the Nebraska one should be disqualified, because I-50 through Nevada is much less interesting and deserving of it’s name “The Loneliest Road in America”.

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  38. j.crew says:

    I see a common theme in all of the above comments: construction. At least in the northerly climes somebody somewhere has identified a problem and is intending to do something about it. Misguided intentions and faulty execution aside this is relative progress.

    I would like to nominate the great city of New Orleans to this list. The whole thing. Despite billions of dollars in federal infastructure money you still can’t drive more than a block in this city without wondering why you chose to embark to the grocery store on what feels like a 40 year old wooden rollercoaster. Sink holes big enough to put a refrigerator in are a regular occurance and it is difficult to go more than 30mph anywhere without feeling like you are doing serios damage to your automobile. The street buckles or sinks, some neighbor puts up a single cone and thats it life goes on, figure out how to drive around it. I would hazard to guess 10% of the city’s streets are totally impassable. Don’t even get me started on the feet of standing water in the streets when it rains or the zoolander worthy inability to make a left turn.

    I love this place, but don’t get me started on the roads.

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  39. Jacquie says:

    Ah, Mike and friends, you have no clue! Even in Nebraska, I-80 is NOT the most boring road! There is a stark beauty and during the great bird migrations a grandeur to the Platte River Valley. Try the Sand Hills through northern Nebraska. I once drove three days just in Cherry County! Even that area has some interest…eventually you get to the wagon train ruts of the Western migrations…even some 19th century graffitti.

    I’ve driven almost all of the routes nominated…and have lived in Los Angeles, Brooklyn, the Northern Plains, Ohio and Alaska and now in MN and AZ and traveled to every state in the Union (and DC of course). I think I would have to vote for Raj #4. If you try to drive up the Eastern Seaboard, Jersey becomes the choke point. Boston is awful; DC was even easy on Inauguration Day this year; and only a fool drives in NYC. So, my vote goes for the poetic paean to New Jersey’s critical role in making drivers despair…All of the Eastern Seaboard Highways could be the modern Inferno. Jersey is the deepest ring of motoring hell.

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  40. jep says:

    #10 the CBE

    ah yes the wasted time, the heat and the frustration. And the chips of cement falling from the overpasses above onto your windshield. Thank god you are only doing the standard
    3 miles an hour when that happens.

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  41. KB says:

    The Nebraska 1-80 is actually not that bad. I’ve driven at various times in my life the entire stretch of I-80 from east to west coast. The Nebraska part actually has some great intereting, historic, and clean rest stops. In addition, you can go 75 and the road is in good condition with little traffic.

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  42. julian says:

    Great descriptions! I’ve driven many of these (also in italy and africa and other fun places), although I’m a little confused about the lack of LA / SF / Seattle nominations. Once took me over 3 hours to cross LA, and there were no accidents.

    New Yorkers need to get a grip: neither Manhattan nor the CBE is in the same category as some of these. And I loved the Nebraska description (so true), but find to hard to call that the worst road. Which leaves Boston and DC…

    Boston has the worst signage anywhere (if it’s a major street, it doesn’t need a sign — because of course you know it!), although northern Virginia makes a valiant attempt to compete. And the road quality (e.g. rt 2) is pretty horrible. But for sheer congestion and futility, I’m going to go with greater DC and vote #1.

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  43. rusty says:

    I vote beltway.

    And if you want lonely, desolate, flat highway, I-80 (NE) is bested by I-80-EB (NV)… coming out of the Sierras, you drive for three hours and the mountains look like they haven’t moved.

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  44. 495 Beltway Victim says:

    #6, by 100 miles

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  45. MAC says:

    #2 – I can feel the bridge quaking under me.

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  46. Jane says:

    #7, definitely. I have been whipsawed in that endless loop of a traffic circle-within-an-octogon-within-a-construction-zone too many times for my sanity.

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  47. Matt Bunsen says:

    I’ve driven all those nasty intersections in Boston… I’ve been stuck on the 405 for hours….

    But the CBE wins. Thats all there is to it…

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  48. Bob C. says:

    I have to vote for the Cross Bronx.

    It messes up my commute home every day and I don’t even take it. I normally take 95S over the Throgs Neck to get to Queens. Many a day the CBE backs up 95 all the way to the Westchester Border!!!

    I often think of the Sci Fi story “The Roads Must Roll” In that people were stuck for years in traffic until finally the government just paved over the road cars, people and all so that it could start all over again. The author must have been thinking of the CBE…

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  49. charles says:

    Let’s do this Chicago style….I vote # 6…again.

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  50. binna says:

    #1 for the sheer beauty

    #6 for bringing back memories of driving on I-80. I have to agree w/ # 43, though, NV was much much worse. Even trucks disappear.

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  51. Louise says:

    While I have personally lost cumulative months of my life crawling to and fro on Route 18, the sheer horror of the Pulaski Skyway approaches are unmatched – a tunnel of steel girders, graffiti-ed, dark and shockingly filthy. Hard to say whether it is better to be in slow traffic, which lessens the heart-stopping peril of blind curves and potholes, or to make decent time to more quickly with white knuckles and fillings rattled from teeth. The ten-lane free-for-all leading up to that full of clueless amateurs, rabid commuters and hulking trucks grinding slowly through all 73 gears is a special kind of hell.

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  52. Robot Mistake says:

    #6.

    I think the differnce is the vast majority of other options represent current or future road way projects.

    On 80 if you blink at the right moments you feel like you are moving backwards.

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  53. Pete says:

    Yeah, your East coast bias is very apparent here. You want pot holes? Try getting from the North Rim to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon! You want traffic jams? Don’t bore me with stories of the piddling “expressways” of DC or NYC. Try 7-8 lanes in each direction on the 405 just north of downtown LA, almost any time of the day or night. It used to be there were what was euphemistically called “rush hours”, mornings and late afternoons. Now, no one can be sure there will not be total stoppage of traffic at any time of the day or night, any place in LA. (I spent 4 hours going 10 miles on US 101 in the San Fernando Valley on a lazy Saturday afternoon last month.) In 1880, average speed of a horse & buggy: 16 MPH. In 2009, average speed on the Interstate 5 in Orange County: 12 MPH.

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  54. Aaron Crossen says:

    Would like to see a little love/hate for Detroit’s roads. If there was ever a reason to drive a Hummer or Jeep, surely west Detroit is it. Passing through the Andes in a donkey-powered caravan may compare.

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  55. Colleen Clark says:

    #10 for the Cross Bronx Expwy.

    It’s not fair to blame Nebraska for being flat. Now if you had to creep along at 40mph for road construction that continued year after year that would be something else.

    Alewife and Rte 2. It’s a bit of a zoo, but not the worst by any means. The Tobin – it is what it is and you’re soon on your way. Now the Southeast expwy – that could be a candidate.

    Yes, what about road nightmares west of Nebraska. In the LA area the road surface may be OK but you might be on it for hours just creeping along.

    But CBE – always terrible, if short.

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  56. Ex Nebraskan says:

    #6 My sympathies to anyone who thinks sitting in traffic for hours beats cruising at 75 and taking regular breaks at beautiful rest stops, I-80 was built on the path of least resistance, following the Platte River. Nebraska has many trees, just not along this path. Western Kansas and Eastern Colorado are even more boring, but that doesn’t make them a bad road.

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  57. Mike says:

    #2… sat there twice today!

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  58. AS says:

    #1 DC beltway

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  59. Tristan says:

    I vote for #6.

    Although it was close, I’ve personally expereinced 5 of the 10, and contemplated their various failings, and #1′s writting was excelent (and in some small part I suppose the road is to blame/praise for that) – but I’ve had the experience of very nearly going out of my mind with boredom driving on rt 80. I think I’d rather spend a few hours in traffic on any of the other stretches if it meant I didn’t have to cross Nebraska that way again.

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  60. Doug says:

    #10 CBE. I once broke down on the CBE, and the ensuing events are too horrible for me recount…

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  61. paulwesterberg says:

    #1

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  62. Shira says:

    #10. The Cross Bronx is a parking lot, not an expressway.

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  63. Nancy says:

    I vote for #4 – Raj. I’ve driven on Rt. 18 and it truly is as bad as he so poetically puts it.

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  64. Tim says:

    How can one choose? If you live in the Boston area, whatever road you are on at the moment is the worst in America. Whether it is the potholes that swallow buses, the infuriatingly timed lights (to “moderate” traffic), the maddening signage (did they really think it was a cost-saving measure to put street signs up only for cross streets on main thoroughfares??), or the traffic patterns designed to line contractors’ pockets rather than to move traffic efficiently, Boston is a mess. The one redeeming feature is that Boston is a small city so one can escape the pain relatively quickly. Pity the poor New Yorker or Angeleno. For lack of best local option, my vote goes to the CBE.

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  65. George Sutton says:

    I hope this is not too far off the point. The CBE is a nightmare at all times. The “all times” factor seems to be an element in all of the examples. Too easy, I say. The real problems are roads that generate a cycle of uncertainty. Will it or won’t it. The Brooklyn Queens Expressway, sinister sister of the BQE is far worse than your selections. A modest trip on the BQE may take 25 minutes or 4 hours. A random pattern that adds to the crapshoot. While one may cope with many of your selections by using zen, suicidal thought, resignation or surrender, etc., the BQE caused fundamental anxiety and unreliable behavior. For example,”Yes, I am leaving Brooklyn right now at should be at the house in 1 to 5 hours.” Very tough to live this way and maintain one’s credibility.

    George

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  66. Sue says:

    #4 Route 18 gets my vote! The last time I made an attempt at driving on this nightmarish stretch of perpetually under contrustruction highway, it wasn’t clear that a new express lane was in operation, so I couldn’t exit the highway. I was forced to drive past my intended exit and backtrack my way through the downtown, but I was really late for a meeting. Won’t make the mistake of taking that route again anytime soon. Ugh.

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  67. KB says:

    Imagine how it feels to spend 3 hours stuck in NYC traffic trying to get to the lovely fast moving I-80 to go to North Platte NE. I much prefer the parts of the road that you can move on. If you don’t enjoy or have experience driving long distances, that is your problem, not the road’s.

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  68. Boris Suchkov says:

    The existence of this article is, for me, just one more reminder that American transportation policy is an utter failure. Our tax dollars are funneled through an undemocratic, non-transparent, non-rational process just to end up in the pockets of construction unions and the politicians those unions support.

    Even forgetting for a minute the country’s need for vastly improved public transit, almost none of the transportation money is spent in any sort of cost-effective manner. There are no standards, no studies, no competition for the money, better projects (those that will benefit more people) are not preferred to worse ones, etc.

    The other factor is the socialist aspect. Roads are considered to be essentially free, for some odd reason, and there is great resistance to even such simple things as tying the gas tax to inflation- as if the cost of constructing one mile of road today is the same as in 1993!

    There is no accountability. No marketplace. No one gets punished for making decisions that kill thousands of people a year through accidents and air pollution. It’s a disaster.

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  69. Bunter says:

    #6 mike

    I rode my bike across Nebraska once. Did you ever know another biker who prayed for a hill?

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  70. Meg says:

    Providence for the win -

    Last March, my roomate had two of her tires damaged by potholes on 146. When the tow truck came, we learned we were the 23rd call of the night.

    Love New England spring.

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  71. Karen says:

    Number #1 for sure. This same intersection is a soul sucking wound to the chest of every breathing human that encounters it daily. Oh…and 5 mph…is a pipe dream…do cars even register at 3 mph???

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  72. RCervantez says:

    Try stretches of I believe, Highway 342 from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. There are patches of you, the road and trees lined up on both sides of the road. And you can’t see beyond the trees, it’s like claustrophobia ground zero. An ecological torture chamber…

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  73. Mike says:

    Vote for #2 – B from Bean-town.

    Never were words so true

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  74. john newman says:

    There really needs to be a new word what the Cross Bronx is. So like a road in all outward form, all visual respects. And yet it conveys the opposite of movement. It prevents transportation with a constipation who’s shock wave extends a dozen blocks past it on either side. After twenty years of its impediment I now only approach it on the perpendicular and preferably in an airplane.

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  75. Rachel says:

    #2 Not only is the bridge bad on a good day, but with the harsh New England winters, it can be treacherous

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  76. 60726x says:

    It’s about drivers adapting, not the roads. Boston is bad for visitors but fine for locals. I live near Rte. 2 (#9) and use it regularly, including all the rotaries. You learn the curves, the lights, the location of the potholes, and the other drivers. The whole experience becomes a familiar dance. Conducted at high-speed, no less.

    I’ve never been to Nebraska, but maybe someday I’ll have the chance.

    I have also been on the CBE and don’t wish to repeat that experience. The claustrophobia is unmatched. Trucks on all sides, buildings overhead, twenty-foot walls of dirty concrete. Amazing. Even more amazing is the skill of the drivers. A quick lane change with only inches to spare on either end of the car can only be executed with years of practice in an environment that rewards such skill. We don’t have that in Boston.

    The Big Dig may have done little for traffic, but it restored livability to sections of the city that were previously post-apocalyptic caverns of rusting steel and screeching subway cars. That was my first experience of Boston, getting off the train in North Station in November 1986 in a cold rain.

    My vote for worst is CBE.

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  77. gthaskett says:

    Another vote for #10, only because you did not include the potholes on I-80 and 81 during a NortheastPA winter.

    I have experienced most of these, but the Cross-Bronx seems today as bad I when I first drove it in the 1960s.

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  78. ceolaf says:

    Wow, only one outside the Northeast Corridor.

    Having lived near five of these — near enough to have driven each scores of times — I feel fairly qualified on this one.

    #1 (Vicki) is truly horrendous. Absolutely horrible. (I-95, not 495, though).

    #5 (David) is very bad, for exactly the reasons he lists. But it is not as bad as the Woodrow Wilson bridge and everything leading to it out of VA.

    I need also to chastize #9 (Bill), however. Route 2 can back up, but nothing like the others on this list, and once you make the turn — long before the rotaries — it goes fast. It doesn’t deserve to be on the list.

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  79. Patrick says:

    Must be an East Coast Paper. Los Angeles? Crawling, thirty-mile jams and nothing but another McDonalds to pass the view?

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  80. Matthew Hersh says:

    RU kiddin’? The New Brunswick portion of Route 18 that is referenced here is a dream compared to what it used to be. How could any New Jerseyan possibly think of the beautifully reconstructed portion of Route 18 in New Brunswick as the “bad” part of Route 18? The shame of Route 18 is further east: the East Brunswick sprawl — 10 miles of strip mall hell, replete with bad planning, traffic lights, and high levels of congestion. In the improved New Brunswick portion, the state’s DOT should be applauded for engaging with the community, and taking an unfortunate situation where a highway was built on a waterfront, and making it into a pedestrian-friendly, attractive place where you can access neighborhoods and parks.

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  81. PMAC says:

    Pretty much any suburban 4+ laner that excludes pedestrians and bicyclists qualifies as the worst road. I would not be able to single one out. They’re all the same, just traffic sewers to the suburbs.

    PM

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  82. Dean H says:

    To Mike and all the people voting for # 6. At best you are elitist eastern snobs, but more likely idiots. Anyone who thinks Nebraska is desolate has clearly never driven through many western states. If open emptiness is a criteria for “worst” road (and I don’t think it is–it has beauty all its own), great stretches of eastern S. Dakota, southern Minnesota, Texas, Kansas, Nevada, and eastern Montana all easily qualify. There is no way that experience is even close to the ugliness of the experience of being stuck in traffic in an industrialized section of almost any American city. For example, almost any freeway in Chicago qualifies.

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  83. Krishna says:

    #4… RT 18 sucks

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  84. Tristan says:

    For all the people that are defending rt 80, I have to agree that normally I’d prefer to be driving then standing still, and that the road itself is relatively well maintained and even has a decently high speed limit, if I’d never driven across Nebraska I don’t think I would have a problem with it.

    Also, most of the other roads are a huge gamble, will there be terrible traffic or road construction? Is there an unusually high danger of an accident? The chance factor definitely seems to make them worse, you’re lured in to taking the road hoping for the best, but instead you end up in traffic and infuriated.

    But I’m sticking with my vote because for all the other roads I’ve driven, despite, or because of the uncertainty, I can imagine them getting better, maybe they’ll finish construction next year, or it’ll be late at night and there will be no traffic, maybe they’ll finally fix those potholes!

    But rt 80 is the best we can ever hope for, it’s the quickest and easiest way across the state, and you know exactly what you’re in for when you cross the border from Iowa; cruise control holding a steady 75 mph for the next 6 hours, making a slight adjustment to the wheel about once for each of those hours. You just want to see the mountains, but you’ve got to pay your dues first. :)

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  85. Jerry says:

    Re: Comment #14 from Chad Bergeron…..

    The Concord Rotary has 3 lanes now???
    The Concord Rotary has traffic lights now???

    Of course the last time I drove on the rotary was 30 years ago, I guess things have changed a bit. I used to come in and out of the rotary on the side streets – worked at Raytheon in Bedford, lived in Acton. Kinda scary crossing all that Route 2 traffic. But I only remember 2 lanes in and out each direction on 2. I don’t remember signals at all – just yield signs on the side streets, and nothing to stop the cars on 2.

    That said, I did hate to drive downtown, always took the T whenever I could.

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  86. Hockey Player says:

    RE: #6
    Although I have never driven this stretch, I’d like to.
    Being from Saskatchewan, we grow up loving the freedom felt by having all that space around us, and the huge, open skies.
    Great place to drive and maybe listen on the car stereo to someone like John Coltrane; to truly contemplate; be inspired…
    In any case, having an imagination could help those who feel ‘bored’ (I’ve never understood that word coming from adults)

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  87. JackCB says:

    The CBE (10) wins because of the fear factor. It’s not the stretches of creeping along, it’s the sudden bursts up to 50 or 60, with diving lane changes, tailgating and sudden braking all around you, knowing all the time that just ahead is a mass panic stop.

    However, I can’t leave out route 18 (4) and Jersey City (7). I once had a commute that included both. Aggravation at the start and finish, both ways.

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  88. Rama says:

    For #6 .

    Ine(braske)rtia : The tendency of a body in straight line motion to stay in motion in a straight line , especially in Nebraska.

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  89. formeriowan says:

    #6 For sure.

    I have spent many a mind numbing drive on the endless 1-80 through Nebraska. Roadkill would make it more interesting.

    My brother and I both agree, just pay off the cops at the state line and drive as fast as you want :)

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  90. mike says:

    dean h -

    i am from iowa. i live in iowa. i have traveled the roads of this country and i stand by my nomination. the “east coast elitist snob” comment must refer to iowa’s geographical location regarding nebraska…

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  91. Joe says:

    # 2

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  92. Kate Martin says:

    Definitely #2, Brendan. I really like what the material was inspired by (Robert Frost). His description is spot on.

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  93. MS says:

    Nice work Brendan! I throw a vote out for #2. Fantastic poem. :-)

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  94. Joan A. says:

    I vote for #8 Joe. Yes, the Providence 195 on-ramp has been a “temporary road” for many many many years… then
    when 195 gets down to New Bedford it has a string of ‘on ramps’ smack dab behind the ‘off ramps’… thus scary crossings of cars trying to get on and off …

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  95. Jacob says:

    I vote for #2, The Tobin. This brilliant author must be a cynical Robert Frost.

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  96. Selena says:

    #8!

    The “bump” on the new I-195 on ramp nearly took the bottom off my car. Also, still can’t figure out how to get to I-95 south from Gano st.

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  97. -K says:

    #6 all the way – im a student in wyoming and the nebraskans here joke you can fall asleep driving on I-80 and wake up, and you’ll never know unless you have gps. it is dangerous simply because there is nothing on it, imagine staring at a wall for 8 hours while going 80-90 mph.

    I-80 through wyoming is terrible too, only because it is closed any time you want to go anywhere in the winter.

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  98. Mike says:

    Number two is great, it really paints a nice picture.

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  99. Jason Braunstein says:

    #2 is the best ever!

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  100. Debbie R. says:

    3 roads from Massachusetts? Either the state has alot of whiners, or readers of blogs.

    Rte 2 is lovely, especially West of Concord, don’t understand the complaint at all.
    The big dig complaint is just partisan sniping.
    Tobin is unpleasant but no worse than at least half a dozen highways in NYC.

    As a former New Yorker, I’ll have to go with #10.

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  101. Katie says:

    Nothing beats the Providence pot-holes, courtesy of decades of city government run by mafiosos.
    Hands down #8 – Providence RI.

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  102. Matt says:

    My vote is definitely for #10 because of my special relationship with the Cross Bronx, having once been driving on it at 5 mph when my car was crushed end to end between two trucks because the strung out guy driving the truck behind me wasn’t paying attention.

    I disagree with #6 though. I-70 through Kansas is definitely worse. The “scenery” is the same, but the speed limit is lower and keeps changing so that the state troopers can camp out near the first sign with the lower limit and give you a $200 ticket.

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  103. Aeirlys says:

    Having driven across Nebraska, I’ll go with Mike, #6. Driving through the state is a hazard to one’s mental health.

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  104. stuckinnyc says:

    Seriously, Mike, boring roads are a problem for you??? Come to NY!!! I have to go with #10, the Cross Bronx. Honorable mention to the Beltway in DC. And Jamie!@18- driving on the CBE 3 times a year does NOT qualify- come drive on it daily and then let’s talk.

    But how did the Van Wyck and the Brooklyn Queens Expwy get left out? Those roads are jammed ALL hours of the day and night. ALWAYS!!!

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  105. stevenz says:

    Pittsburgh. All of it.

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  106. AP says:

    #2 really spoke to me.

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  107. HikeHero says:

    Poem #2 is a poem I would nominate as a great poem, the rhyme scheme and the content is commendable.

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  108. jdb says:

    #2! – Brendan

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  109. Emily Webb says:

    I love poem #2 the tobin…. it gets my vote

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  110. Cheryl says:

    The Cross-Bronx … an utter nightmare always and ugly to boot.

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  111. david says:

    I haven’t driven enough of the roads to really have a vote, but I will attest that the drivers in Boston are the worst I’ve ever experienced. As long as their flashers are on, they must feel they have dispensation to do anything from double park to double murder!

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  112. J.M. says:

    #2

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  113. JFitz says:

    Definitely vote #1 – the Tobin is hell on earth.

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  114. Rebecca says:

    #2 poem!

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  115. E Olson says:

    I have to go with the Cross Bronx Expressway as well. That may be the only one that is also congested at 1AM.

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  116. Daniel Reeves says:

    Voting for #1. So well written. I am, however, partial to route 18 as the worst road in America. Yes, it has been “under construction” almost half my conscious life.

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  117. Aimee says:

    Here’s my vote for #2 (Brendan–Ode to the Tobin Bridge).

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  118. Tucker says:

    #2 as a poem and appropriate. Sorry #9 but Rt 2 isn’t that bad. Alewife is a horrible intersection but there isn’t the same kind of traffic elsewhere compared to the Tobin, SE-Expressway and the other, more important roads in MA. I love how overrepresented our state is.

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  119. Laserlight says:

    Vickie brought back memories of four and a half hours spent sitting in the section of purgatory called I 95.
    There’s nothing quite like sitting there, trying to make it to an appointment, watching people one by one turn off their cars, get out and eventually start playing frisbee or suntanning, missing my first appointment, missing my second appointment, missing my lunch date. At some point, all you can do is laugh.

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  120. gary says:

    I have to go with t paciello (#10) for the utter despair he (or she) conveys, making us all feel that maybe our lives (and commutes) aren’t so bad afterall, but I’d give Vicki (#1) honorable mention for most spiritual and Eric (#7) a nod for literary creativity.

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  121. peter says:

    i am voting for 2 because i despise that road and boston in general.

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  122. alsostuckinnyc says:

    I would have to vote for the CBE, which has the ability to mess traffic up in two seperate states! I doubt this can be said of any of the other nominees. I balk, however, at the omission of the Kosciusko Bridge on the BQE. Crossing this span at a crippled-snails pace, without pulling out every hair on your head make spelling it’s name look simple.

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  123. Ambika Ananth says:

    My vote goes to #4. what a fine poetic way of saying it all….

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  124. Carly says:

    4. Raj Pandravada

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  125. GeorgeW says:

    To my despair I’ve driven 9 out of these 10 as I live in the Northeast. The NY and Boston metro areas are over represented fairly in my view. I’ll second ohiomeister, these two are in a class by themselves:

    #1 Beltway on-ramp
    #10 CBE

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  126. Sam says:

    #4 for the poetry
    Sam

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  127. Christopher Parker says:

    I’ve been on most of them: cross-Bronx has been the worst to me. I’m actually rather fond of rt2 in mass.

    From a financial perspective there’s no question: it’s the big dig. There were once plans to put a 4 track railroad underneath. That was abandoned as it would have added a few billion (but only a fraction of 22 billion) — however it would have been both vastly more efficient (from a dollars spent vs. people moved perspective) and vastly more pleasant. Probably with a bigger effect on the region’s economy as well.

    The rail project is still around as a plan and if you life in Mass you should write your elected types now so they make sure they get it in line for stimulus funds.

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  128. HAS says:

    #2: The Tobin is most certainly the winner.

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  129. Mark says:

    #8 works for me.

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  130. John says:

    # 2 is the worst road in Boston. Right on!

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  131. Al V. says:

    I have driven all of the nominees except #2 and #6. Each have their merits. For sheer terror, I would choose #7 – that 10 foot blind merge into high speed traffic never fails to excite. For potholes and axle-wear, I would choose #10. There used to be a point on the CBE westbound where the roadway simply dropped about a foot, as if you were driving down stairs. And for pure tedium and delays, the Wilson Bridge (#1) is the champ. When I drive north, I will drive miles out of my way to avoid anything to do with the DC Beltway. As have many other writers, I have spent HOURS sitting in traffic waiting to cross the bridge. And in aggregate, Boston has the worst roads all-around.

    It’s hard to choose the true champion. I think this competetion is a good argument for mass transit.

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  132. Emily says:

    2 is the best!! Go Brendan!

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  133. Thomas says:

    #2 The Tobin

    Best written and oh so true!!!

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  134. Kristina says:

    I’ve gotta go with #2 – The Tobin

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  135. Steven F. says:

    10.

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  136. Emma says:

    #2 is certainly the best option.

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  137. Chaz says:

    #2 is my vote. Descriptive and captivating.

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  138. AG says:

    #4 sweet eighteen, of course.

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  139. Sylvan says:

    I gotta vote for number 6 (mike) because it was hilarious.

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  140. Claire says:

    #2 is well written and thought out

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  141. Alex says:

    8

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  142. tmfkara says:

    Adding Route 19 out of downtown Pittsburgh. The traffic lights seemed to timed at random, cars in the left lane sit endlessly waiting to make a lefthand turn, while cars in the right lane suddenly find they are behind an illegally parked car during rush hour. Sometimes, there are no lanes at all, and sometimes they come back without warning.

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  143. Jackie says:

    #2 All the way! You gotta love that old rickety bridge that doesn’t seem to have reaped any of the benefits of the Big Dig. Great job, Curran!

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  144. Lia says:

    Vicki is my choice.
    Very well written!

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  145. Mike says:

    #1 (Vicki)
    Lovely language!

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  146. sarah says:

    Vicki has my vote. At least in Nebraska you can enjoy, in the midst of your despair, that someday you shall arrive at your destination. Your movement is continuous and unhindered. Waiting to merge onto the Beltway, however, is significantly more soul-crushing for those of us who lack sufficient training in Zen meditation and a continuous desire to move forward.

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