Weird intersections in Pittsburgh

Streets come together oddly at a lot of intersections in Pittsburgh. And the controls aren’t always what you expect. Sometimes there will even be a sign warning that traffic in the opposite direction has an “extended green,” meaning they’ll get to go while you’re still waiting.

Amanda, Bausman, Brownsville, and Hayes

The traffic signal at this intersection has been upgraded and the awfulness I describe in what follows has now been remedied. I keep this here as a prime example of what I mean when I say that I drive around all day (for Uber) in astonishment at how intersections and interchanges come together, are laid out, and are controlled: They really did things this way.

The intersection of Amanda, Bausman, Brownsville, and Hayes is in the Knoxville neighborhood (figure 1). This is a very complicated intersection and in ways that aren’t apparent as you approach it. And there was a very special booby trap here.FireShot Capture 002 - brownsville bausman hayes - Google Maps -
Fig. 1. Screenshot from Google Maps, September 22, 2019. This is the intersection of Amanda Avenue, Bausman Street, Brownsville Road, and Hayes Avenue.

What you should know here is that Brownsville Road, unidentified but depicted in figure 1 from top middle to lower left, basically proceeds along a ridge. Bausman comes up a steep hill approaching that ridge. Hayes is also on the ridge but neither the traffic on Hayes nor the traffic on Bausman can see each other as they approach the intersection. Prior to the signal upgrade in 2023, they both get a green light at the same time. And oh yeah, sometimes people are surprised when somebody else also has a green light coming from a contradictory direction.

Welcome to Pittsburgh.

Beechwood, Browns Hill, and Hazelwood

FireShot Capture 007 - Hazelwood Ave & Browns Hill Rd - Google Maps -
Fig. 2. Screenshot from Google Maps, September 24, 2019, depicting the intersection of Hazelwood Avenue, Browns Hill Road, and Beechwood Boulevard. Hazelwood is unidentified here but approaches from center left past the food pantry. Beechwood approaches on a diagonal from lower right to the intersection and continues on a slight diagonal toward top center left. Browns Hill either begins or ends at this intersection.

Another special (in the most pejorative sense of the word) case is the intersection of Hazelwood Avenue, Browns Hill Road, and Beechwood Boulevard (figure 2). The booby trap here arises when you are approaching the intersection on Hazelwood, intending to continue in roughly the same direction on Beechwood. Google Maps identifies this as a “soft right,” it looks like a soft right, and the intersection offers a right turn signal.

So you might think that right turn signal applies to you. Hopefully, you manage to avoid a collision. That right turn signal coincides with a green for left turn traffic off Browns Hill Road. You needed to wait for the regular green light because that direction of travel, the very same one that Google identified as a “soft right,” and the very same one you thought was a right turn because it is a bit of a turn to the right, is “straight” to that light.

This page is part of a section on driving in Pittsburgh: