Thursday, October 8, 2009

Texas Frontage Roads

Love them (Texans) or hate them (Visitors), the frontage roads in Texas are a fact of life.

Depending on where you are in the state, these roads, almost exclusive to Texas, may be called “frontage roads,” “access roads,” or “service roads.” Whatever the local name, they are all the same.

The frontage road, in short, is a road that runs alongside, or parallel to, an interstate or limited access roadway, usually on both sides of the limited access road, and running one-way in the same direction as the side it’s on. While these types of roads may be found in a few cities around other parts of the United States as so-called feeder roads, the difference in Texas is that these roads run the length of the limited access road, not just in cities, but in rural areas as well.

For example, there is a frontage road that runs the length of Interstate 35 from Austin to San Antonio. For those of you in Ohio, this would be the same as having a frontage road, running both north and south on both sides of Interstate 75 from Dayton to Cincinnati. Or, in another Ohio example, this would be the same as having a frontage road, running both east and west on both sides of Interstate 70 from Dayton to Columbus.

The advantages are obvious. If you make a mistake, for example, and get off early at the wrong exit and the next entry point is miles away, you don’t have to turn around and go back, just continue on the frontage road until you get to your destination. Or, if you want to visit a destination that's on the other side of the limited access road you just exited, but further back up the other direction, that’s not a problem either. In most cases, there are special U-turn lanes at the next local intersection that allow you to quickly reverse directions without waiting at a traffic signal, and get back to that destination very quickly. And, if there is a serious accident on the limited access road and it is shut down, you can get off and keep going on the frontage road. What if you don't like driving on interstates at all? Again, no issue. Just take the frontage road.

So, what’s not to like? Why hate the frontage roads?

Probably nothing, but it takes some getting used to for people from out of state, or out of the area, especially in urban areas with lots of traffic. At frontage road intersections, it’s very easy to get into the wrong lane. This can be frustrating if you get it wrong and have to keep going if you want to turn, or have to turn, if you want to keep going.

I disliked frontage roads immensely when I first moved to Texas, as most newcomers do, because I always found myself in the wrong lane and confused about what was going on. But, once I learned how to navigate these roads, I became a true believer.

Texans are on to something here. Other states, take note.

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