Warsaw roadworks – how to bring a city to its knees!

Traditionally, the period between winter break and Easter is when the Warsaw road planners come out of hibernation and while still not entirely compos mentis start to make decisions on which roads to close. They make these decisions by using a complicated matrix with with points being given to possible closures based on the following criteria;

  1. The element of surprise
  2. Number of commuters seriously affected
  3. Amount of time added to average journey time
  4. Knock-on effect (number of other routes affected)
  5. Duration of disruption

Each of these points is given a score and the works that score the highest are the ones for which funding is approved.

In other words, take the brain of a fruit fly, chop it into smaller pieces and you’ve got enough little brains to power the entire department of road planning for Warsaw and suburbs.

This year they started early by closing the “flyover” running from Mickiewicza into Andersa. This is one of the few routes over the railway lines from the North into the town centre. These works had been announced before and I was expecting a very nasty influence on my route to and from work. As it turned out there was an impact but not as bad as expected, adding perhaps 5-10 minutes to a 20-30 minute journey.

This week though, things took a turn for the very much worse! Yesterday I encountered perhaps the worst ever traffic on the way in that I’ve ever seen with traffic standing still almost from door to door. I called a mate and asked if I had missed something on the news and was told that someone had died on the metro that morning and so they, and plenty of others, had taken to the car instead (assuming that the metro would be closed for month for police investigations!). On that basis this was a one-off problem, good news. However, when I got to work, where everyone had suffered the same fate, it was a different story about the Śląsko-Dąbrowski bridge being closed. This was far more sinister!

Take a look at the maps below (click for larger size) to see what they have done.

The above is a close-up view showing the two points that are now blocked (black crosses). The red line is the railway tracks that have to be crossed coming from North (top) to centre (bottom right). The brown route to the left might be a consideration were it not for the fact that it is used as a car park most of the time. This route is part of the ‘ring-road’ and connects directly to the most northern bridge it is therefore very busy. To make it more fun they are doing very major roadworks on this road and have reduced the number of lanes. Bottom line is that this is not even worth considering as a route into town from the north. That just leaves the blue routes as the only two ways to cross the railway and get to the centre. The left hand route is rondo Babka followed by Jana Pawla, the right hand one is Wisłostrada.

To get the whole picture though, you need a wider view of the city:

Looking at the top right, near the rather appropriate box named “more”, is the route of an awful lot of cars heading to work. This is an area that was heavily bombarded by residential developers during the recent false-boom with new blocks and housing estates mushrooming up from the fields every month. Many of these commuters will have used the blue route (Radzyminska) into town until they closed the bridge. These people might well now see the red route (Toruńska) as their best option, thus bringing considerably more traffic to the north end of town. On their way along the red route, they will join forces with the already considerable traffic coming in from the other housing boom satellite area (Tarchomin and beyond) represented by the brown arrow. When all these people eventually cross the bridge they will be joined by me and everyone else living beyond us from Młociny, Łomianki and so on – the purple route. The combined forces of the red, brown and purple will then be faced with the problem of restricted access across the railway, as described above!!

Now, what most right-minded people might consider is an adjustment of the traffic signals to improve the flow from north to centre and vice-versa during rush hours. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem as there’s very little traffic coming east-west thanks to the bridge closure. It is interesting, actually, to note that the traffic now is AWFUL from home to ul. Solidarnośći (in line with the closed bridge). After this it reverts back to “normal”.

Needless to say, no changes have been made to the traffic signals, which remain set to handle 50% N-S and 50% E-W even though the traffic is now 90% N-S and 10% E-W. I’m not even going to mention the fact that we had delays some months back to install a new whizzo intelligent traffic system that is supposed to learn and adapt.

The railway flyover is closed to be rebuilt because if they didn’t do that people would eventually die as cars tumbled onto passing trains. This is clear and understandable, it has always looked as if it might collapse at any moment. It will be closed for I think two years, a bit excessive perhaps. The bridge however is closed to “repair the tunnel and fix the tram lines”. This is less clear. The tram lines have already been extensively worked on and so has the tunnel under the old town, both for perhaps years already. The road had already been closed down for months from two lanes to one in each direction to allow works to be done. And now they decide to close the whole damned thing from now until October 17th???? Questions really should be asked.

The result of all this, based on two days commuting, is that what should take 20-30 minutes is now taking 70-80 minutes – AND WE’RE ALL UNHAPPY ABOUT THAT!!!!!

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25 thoughts on “Warsaw roadworks – how to bring a city to its knees!

  1. Jakub says:

    Come on, you want to work and live in the city, just live IN the city, not 30 km from it and murn about heavy traffic.

  2. scatts says:

    Thanks, Jakub, that’s helpful!

    Oh, and it’s 12km from PKiN, not 30. Hardly na wsi.

  3. expateek says:

    Love the map with arrows!! You shoulda been a general in some invasion, you’ve got da skilz.

    And I’m horrified that Andersa-Mickiewicza flyover is shut. Apparently, as soon as I leave the city, things fall apart! Maybe I drove on it once too often? Sorry!

  4. scatts says:

    We’ve got them in a pincer movement, expateek! I taught General Patton everything he knew.

    And yes, it was you and your three ton 4×4 shopping trolley that caused the problems! ;)

    How’s the UK/Canada/Japan/Chicago…….?

  5. Brad Zimmerman says:

    Great commentary and I definitely understand your frustration… but asking city planners, the people that handle transportation issues and anyone else involved to be rational, clear-minded thinkers is asking a LOT.

    Yes, the lights should be adjusted. Road-closure impacts should be considered… along with the parking situation. Lights in general. Traffic in general.

    What virtually every large city in Poland needs is inexpensive parking garages. Big ones. Get as many cars off the streets and then disallow on-street parking.

    And cops that ticket people that park stupidly (or illegally). And tickets for delivery vehicles that park even more stupidly.

    And instead of throwing some tar and gravel on top of cobblestones, to actually make real, actual roads.

    And more cops making sure that people aren’t doing stupid shit. Cameras don’t stop people from doing stupid shit, they just tax it. Cops stop it.

    And, of course, people that consider the impact of their actions.

  6. Pawel says:

    Roadworks in Warsaw are an always fascinating subject for the millions of people in Poland and elsewhere;)

    Man, the publicity Warsaw gets about its road problems is immense:) Next time I’m writin about the bridge that Torun so desperately needs:)

  7. scatts says:

    Well, as our Warsaw correspondent it seems rude to ignore the plight of many thousands of the capital city’s inhabitants.

    I’m sure any post about Torun would be welcome.

  8. Pawel says:

    BTW how far is it for you from where you live to the nearest tube station? Is leaving your car in your garage an option?

  9. scatts says:

    It is obviously possible to leave the car in the garage, take a 2 hour walk to the metro and then come in on the train. More sensible is to drive to the metro and park in their hyper-huge park n ride car park and then train into work. This would all be much easier without having to drop Zosia at school on the way to work and to buy stuff and collect Zosia on the way home. Not to mention the visits to clients during the working day. Despite these obvious problems, we do have plans to try the rather complicated metro idea when the weather improves just to prove that we can spend even more time traveling and be inconvenienced at the same time!

    As for the people of Kupaluna Górna – let them eat cake. (hmmm, you seem to have deleted that comment)

  10. Pawel says:

    Schools that are far from home can complicate things…

    In case they close two other roads AND the metro: http://www.bractworowerowe.ats.pl/amsterdam/slides/043.JPG

    Eat cake – that reminds me I’m hungry….

  11. Brad Zimmerman says:

    As someone else said, living closer to the city (if it was just that simple) is a good idea.

    My wife and I are very slowly starting to look around at used/new flats and one of our criteria is that it be less than a five minute walk (so, 500m or abouts) from a good tram line or bus stop – I refuse to drive our car into the city, given how utterly insane on-street parking is or how outrageously high the cost is to park in lot or in parking garage. At ~88 PLN/mo for an all-access bus/tram pass (per person) it doesn’t make sense for us to drive. Though we don’t have kid(s), just normal, corporate jobs.

  12. Pawel says:

    Yes I deleted it:) It’s only funny when I say it, when it’s written down it seems serious.

  13. scatts says:

    It is inevitable that the school your kid goes to will not be conveniently located. Also that you will not allow a 6 year old to make their own way to school.

    Brad – I’m lucky enough to have a parking space of my own in the basement of ZT so I don’t have a parking problem. That makes the decision to catch the tram even less interesting than it might otherwise be. If I had no kid, no need to buy stuff and a parking problem, I wouldn’t be driving to work. ;)

    “Live closer to the city” is a pointless comment. About as useful as saying “chop your leg off” if you complain about a strained hamstring. If i was complaining about the journey from Łodz, maybe, but from 12km from ground zero?

    I appreciate that many people might not give a toss about my journey to work but I do believe that highlighting the stupidity of the capital city’s transport department is not an altogether pointless exercise for a blog like this.

    Next time I’ll try to get more “tabloid”. Maybe photos of the best tits I spotted on the long journey to work might be more popular?

  14. Brad Zimmerman says:

    Scatts: Living closer isn’t a pointless comment. Sure, it doesn’t help much right this moment. At some point, though, you will move to a new home and something to keep in mind is you new home’s proximity to public transport and/or work.

    As I said in my previous comment, I know it isn’t simple and doesn’t help right now. 12 kilometers isn’t obviously a lot… and yet it quite obviously IS a lot because it takes you 20-30 minutes to get from home to work normally, 25-40 minutes when there’s a bit of construction/accident/whatever… and 70+ minutes when the city decides to *really* bone you.

    12 kilometers *shouldn’t* be a lot. But it is. Nonetheless, I completely sympathize with your irritation at the city’s ineptitude and indifference. And I completely agree with it. And you should keep blogging about real things like this because they have a very real, direct impact on the quality of our lives.

    That all being said, best tits ain’t bad either. :)

  15. Pawel says:

    LOL Scatts, what would your wife say?:)

    PS. Don’t take my comments about the universal unimportance of the matter tooo seriously. I’m just having a laugh:)

  16. Pioro-Boncza says:

    Not to mention the environmental impact of your and all those other car engines running for 70 minutes just to make it across 12km. I’m not sure where you live exactly but would a suburban train be an option? I know there is a train from Bialoleka that goes straight to the center and I don’t know if they finished yet but the tracks were in the process of being modernized.

  17. boattown_guest says:

    You should have a “tramwaj regionalny.” Its line starts and finishes in Lodz, it’s slower than when it was called only no. 11, not tramwaj regionalny no. 11. Driving in Lodz was really frustrating when they were changing the tracks, but it’s only Lodz, not the capital of Pl. On the other hand, isn’t it exciting? You never know what’s going to happen next;)

    Always look on the bright side of life:)

  18. boattown_guest says:

    Ok, I do wear glasses, but I don’t have a square pink face! :)

  19. scatts says:

    The trouble with the whole “live in the city” debate is that, in my world at least, things just aren’t predictable enough to allow them to dictate where you live. Firstly, these roadworks will be over eventually and when they are the 12km won’t be a drag. Secondly there’s the question of whether my work will remain where it is right now? Not exactly written in stone these days. Then there’s the issue of where Zosia’s schools are likely to be, not at all clear and it would be a shame to move into town to find that the school is out of town! Then we mustn’t forget that life is not completely about work and that it is nice to escape from the fug of the city outside of 9-5 Mon-Fri. of course, there’s many many questions around the type and cost of accommodation that’s available in the city. The exact interconnections of public transport routes and your current/future workplaces………..and so on and so forth.

    That’s why I find comments like that to be pointless. Perhaps there’s a better adjective because I’m sure it was tongue in cheek anyway.

    Pioro – no trains whatsoever near us. The best I can do is a 15-20 minute walk to Pułkowa where I might find a bus to take me to Marymoncka metro. The shortest option would be a 3 minute walk to the Wisła and then catch a boat taxi. Except there are no boat taxis.

  20. stefonic says:

    In Wrocław, I framed a wooden house for a guy only 12 miles from my home. We worked 6 hours per day framing, and 3 to 4 hours per day driving to and from the sight. That was the last job I did in Poland. I was so frustrated with Polish roads (and drivers), I now work in Stavanger, Norway and commute to Wrocław for two weeks off every three months. I have driven all over the EU and Croatia, Poland I must say, has the worst roads and drivers in Europe, and that would include non EU countries too.

  21. adthelad says:

    A few years back a taxi driver told me that the post commies sold themselves and their pals the rights to building roads and motorways, after which they just sat back dong sweet FA simply waiting for the government to buy those rights back. Oddly enough I believed him :)

  22. Pioro-Boncza says:

    scatts: boat taxis = business opportunity? i actually could see this one working!

    stefonic: i fully agree with Poland having the absolute worst roads and the most arrogant, uncivilized drivers…although Bulgaria comes a close second in the EU, but both Poland and Bulgaria are light years ahead of Chinese driving skills

    …pretty sad when to pat ourselves on the back we have to compare ourselves to the Chinese….

    adthelad: i could fully believe that as well. supposedly in the early 90’s the IMF had earmarked a $600 million loan to build a toll superhighway from Hamburg to Moscow passing through Berlin, Poznan, Warsaw, Minsk. Aside from the German portion, the rest of the money was quickly siphoned off to bank accounts in Switzerland. I wonder if this is the same occurrence that the taxi driver was talking about.

  23. Pioro-Boncza says:

    this is a pretty good site showing the progress of different road infrastructure projects in and around Warsaw plus a looping video of all the TVP Info reports about our shoddy roads. Lots of info if you click around….now if they could only organize the building of the roads as well ;^)


  24. […] writes that road construction in Warsaw is bringing the city to its knees. Posted by Veronica Khokhlova […]

  25. […] writes that road construction in Warsaw is bringing the city to its […]

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