Smile Politely

Five of the worst intersections in Champaign

Most of my pet peeves are driving related. Most of my driving related pet peeves are focused on the way other drivers annoy me. Driving is one of the easiest things I’ve ever done, yet some of us can’t seem to figure it out. But this isn’t about those people. I could go on all day about how bad other drivers are, but this isn’t that rant. This is a list of the intersections that force everyone through dumb situations regardless of whether they are a bad driver or not. These are five of the worst intersections in Champaign. And to preface this, while Smile Politely covers stories in both Champaign and Urbana, this is a Champaign centric list. I’ve never had a bad experience driving in Urbana.

Honorable Mention: 6th & John 

Direction: You have no choice.

Worst Time: Any

This is kind of a nitpick of mine because every intersection on 6th south of Springfield is terrible, but this one in particular holds a special place in my heart. It’s the best example of how campus streets try to drive the car for you. It’s proof that the government is trying to take all our rights away, our ability to make decisions. 6th and John isn’t one of the worst because it functions badly; it’s one of the worst because of how useless it is. In the central area of campus it seems the general aim is to funnel all traffic south. 6th and John is almost literally a funnel. Traffic coming from the east or west must turn south, and if you’re already on 6th then you have no choice but to keep going straight. I’ve seen many people attempt to turn the wrong way only to come face to face with the DO NOT ENTER signs too late and back up, or to just keep going the wrong way without consequence. The cops aren’t always around on campus. As always, some people continue to come from the south, and obviously there’s nowhere to go once they reach John. They have to turn around and go back.

#5: Church & Prospect

Direction: Heading North

Worst Time: Late Afternoon

If you’re thinking about heading out to north Champaign to do some heavy duty shopping, try not to do it when everyone else does. I realize people working regular hours all get off at around the same time, so if you must head that way, stay in the right lane until you’re past Church Street. After the turn arrow, the oncoming traffic has the right of way to turn right onto Church, while someone is almost always still waiting in the left lane to turn onto Church from the south. Therefore if you’re behind someone who’s trying to turn left onto Church, you could be waiting for a while. Trust me, you won’t be able to get in the other lane to go around them at this point either. Between four and five is when traffic starts to heat up around there, and it’ll be tough to merge into the right lane, which will already have a steady stream of traffic heading north.

#4: Green & Prospect

Direction: Heading West

Worst Time: Late Afternoon

When I took driver’s ed in 2005, our instructor said Green & Prospect was the most dangerous intersection in the city. I’m assuming that’s why the north and south lights are never green at the same time, to mitigate the danger level. It’s been a fairly tame crossroad since I’ve had my license. So why is this the fifth worst intersection in Champaign? Well, sure, it’s annoying to have to wait through a longer red light on Prospect, but the real worst aspect is the road on the west side of the stop.

It’s hard to tell in the picture (above), but there’s a dip in the road. Anyone who’s gone over it at 20 mph or more in anything other than an SUV has bottomed out, no questions. You can see the scratches on the pavement from cars scraping the road. It’s the worst, because when I get to a traffic light that’s already green, I don’t want to slow down. And this one is almost always green when I get to it. But in my meager Toyota, my hands are tied. I’ve learned my lesson from scraping my bumper so many times. Must slow down.

#3: State & University

Direction: Heading West

Worst Time: Any

Let’s say Bob lives on University. Bob’s friend Jim is coming to visit from out of town. Jim says it’s easy to find Bob’s house. He tells Jim to look for directions online. “All I need to do is get off I-74 at Neil and turn right on University,” he says to himself, because he MapQuested it (people still use MapQuest, OK!?). He gets off the interstate at Neil, turns right on University, and when he gets to State Street the road doesn’t end, but he has to turn left. I’ve often wondered if it’s really necessary to put my turn signal on here, but I do it anyway to communicate with my fellow drivers.

#2: Anywhere on North Prospect

Direction: Heading South

Worst Time: Usually Later

This one is totally “duh,” but it’s still important. The only thing worse than everyone leaving to go shopping at the same time is everyone finishing their shopping at the same time. When half the area code decides to head back south on Prospect, they all do it together. There’s not enough space between traffic lights and the roads always get crammed. I’ve often been in tight spots, where the light in front of me will turn red while I’m in the middle of the intersection because the cars in front of me got held up with another red light. Then everyone who can’t get past from the other directions starts honking at me like it’s my fault the green lights only last ten seconds. 

#1: State & Kirby

Direction: Heading West

Worst Time: When Champaign citizens go into “Sheeple Mode.”

When the clock strikes 4:30 p.m. in this town, everyone drops whatever they’re doing, whether it be work, class, whatever. They get up, get into cars, get on the main roads, and start driving west. Green, Springfield, University, it doesn’t matter. I’m not convinced that all of these people even live in west Champaign. Kirby is one of the worst roads, and while State Street is making a second appearance on this list, I blame Kirby. It’s deceivingly open and spacious, but the heavy traffic near Kirby and Neil is steadfast every day. The traffic at the viaduct is bad enough, but there’s a special emphasis on the irritation that accompanies trying to get past State Street. Heading east on Kirby, you have the benefit of a left turn arrow at State. Heading west, only anguish awaits you. When everyone’s westbound together, there’s always one person who gets in that left lane and wants to turn onto State. Those people should be shot. There’s no arrow, so if you’re stuck behind them along with the other two hundred cars, you wait, because again like at Prospect & Church, the right lane is packed with such a steady stream of cars that there’s no way you’re getting over; they’re not letting you in. Luckily, there are two easy fixes here. Either stay in the right lane, which will still take forever, or turn left on First and go up to St. Mary’s, which turns into Fox on the other side of Neil. You can get around the whole mess that way. Sure, solution number two takes you out of the way, but it saves you time and a lot of pain.

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