Where is it?
Just north of Elland in West Yorkshire, where the main road into Halifax from the outside world, the A629 Calderdale Way, comes to a maddening halt.
It was nominated by Terry Trumpets.
What's wrong with it?
Calderdale Way is a fast dual carriageway that rushes traffic north from the M62 towards the important town of Halifax. It's got motorway-style grade-separated junctions. You could easily convince yourself it was an expressway that will take you all the way from the motorway to the town centre, but those happy thoughts will soon be dashed.
It's actually a bypass for Elland, and with that town out of the way, the lanes narrow down from two to one, the dual carriageway ends, and shortly afterwards the shrunken road then comes to a jarring halt at the traffic lights here at Elland Wood Bottom.
Northbound there's only one lane through the lights, which means that even when there's a green signal, the flow of traffic on the A629 is badly restricted, and the capacity of this little junction is horribly mismatched with the free-flowing dual carriageway just to the south.
In the morning rush hour, as commuters decide they all want to go to Halifax at the same time, the queues start to build up, but the traffic lights restrict the flow of vehicles so badly that the queues remain all day, tailing back a mile onto Calderdale Way, and don't usually clear until well after the evening rush has ended.
Why is it wrong?
Look closely at this junction. No, closer than that. Really closely. There. See it? Yes, Elland Wood Bottom is wearing dark glasses and an unconvincing false moustache. It's in disguise.
The trouble is that this junction is acting like the terminus of a fast expressway, but it's not one. In fact it's a junction that's been there for centuries, connecting four ordinary roads that evolved from ancient tracks through the woods. The fact that someone came along and added a little roundabout and some traffic lights is just because people started driving their motor cars on it.
No, Calderdale Way — and the bypass of Elland that it forms — actually ends some way to the south-east, returning traffic to the existing line of Huddersfield Road down by Elland Bridge. A bit of Huddersfield Road was widened to dual carriageway to make the transition easier. But the reason that the expressway dies such a horrible and gory death here is that this junction is not its terminus at all but rather just the first junction you reach on the old road.
Go on. Peel off the false moustache. Take off the dark glasses, with their dated-looking tortoiseshell frames. Tell Elland Wood Bottom how ridiculous it looks, trying to go incognito. It's not the end of the dual carriageway at all. It's just a poky little local junction that's never bothered to sort itself out to deal with the traffic that now passes through it.
Don't worry, Calderdale Way. It's not your fault. And your glasses are much more stylish.
What would be better?
A little bit of localised widening — or maybe just some tidy work with white paint — would allow two lanes northbound from Calderdale Way to reach the stop line at the traffic lights here. Even if those two lanes then immediately narrow down afterwards to just one, with vehicles merging in turn to reach the single-lane section to the north, two lanes over the stop line would massively increase the flow of traffic through the lights and make much more efficient use of the green light time and the single lane that lies beyond it.
The question is — why hasn't something so simple and obvious been done already? Unfortunately one of the things this junction (and its ever-present northbound queue) achieves is to hold back the tide of fast-moving traffic coming in from the M62, turning it into a steady stream of vehicles that don't overload the single-lane A629 from here into Halifax town centre. If you clean up Elland Wood Bottom, how many other queues do you create north of here at junctions that presently cope well? How many vehicles will just move north a bit and sit idling their engines outside shops and houses instead of being out of harm's way, queuing in the woods?
It might be the case that the most frustrating thing about this junction — the fact that it's not at all difficult to fix — is also part of its purpose: fixing it would just shunt the problem further up the road.
But that's not much consolation when you're sitting in the traffic jam. You could always pass the time by trying on those funny glasses and the false moustache if you want.
Right to reply
The problem with this junction has always been solving the A628 to the north - the climb up Salterhebble Hill is a huge bottleneck.
Some useful history:
The current junction arrangement was created in 1996, prior to this the A629 was a National Speed Limit road and the links to Stainland were all simple priority junctions - the A6026 came to a halt as all traffic poured into a crossroads.
The original solution was for a one way left turn slip road and mini roundabout on the main A629. Unfortunately all the right turning traffic from Halifax towards Stainland completely gridlocked said junction and a mere 6 weeks later it was replaced with today's junction.
It has had several detailed proposals for replacement, the first was valued at over Â£5m in 1987 so fell into the bin.
The current idea is for some local widening to create a bigger junction with either 2+ or bus lanes but no doubt local politics and finances will dictate the final outcome.
Given that Calderdale council is also responsible for the 'masterpiece' that is the Bull Green roundabout, a few miles up the A629 in Halifax town centre, I'm not sure I believe their explanation that this not-rushing-anywhere-6am-to-8pm-jam (as opposed to a rush-hour queue) was actually intended to be a traffic gate.
The Bull Green roundabout has pelican crossings ten yards from each exit, and if one of the crossings on the main road goes red, the through traffic has to stop, and all the vehicles behind it on the roundabout have to stop as well - meaning that every time a pedestrian crosses, the entire roundabout locks up, and one or both of the other exits are blocked.
Given that it's right on the edge of the town cente, and two of its three exits are typically blocked by stationary traffic, it is possibly the most redundant roundabout in the country.
With that in mind, the "traffic gate" explanation for Elland Wood Bottom seems to me like a just-so story!
This is about to become (we really hope) an Ex-Bad Junction!
In March 2022, Calderdale Council are in the process of fixing this junction - work is underway and expected to complete early 2023. After a year of roadworks, in 2020 the A629 up Salterhebble Hill (north of this junction) has been widened, to allow 2 lanes each way up/down the hill and to the bad junction. This work allows this bad junction to be fixed.
It's effectively being enlarged/replaced with a traffic light junction just south of the old junction as the A629 Elland Bypass heading north goes down to 1 lane, and a new 4-lane bridge is being built over the canal to meet with the B6112 at a large roundabout. Both the old A6026 link to the southbound A629 and the left turn from the northbound A629 onto A6026 are being stopped up, and the roundabout replaced with traffic lights. The A6026 northbound junction to A629 is going to remain (with traffic lights), as is the right turn from the A629 south onto the A6026. But no right turn from southbound A629 onto new bridge.
When complete, the A629 will be 2 lanes each way all the way from the top of Salterhebble Hill in Halifax to J24 M62 at Ainley Top, apart from a short stretch southbound remaining 1 lane almost up to the new traffic lights by the new bridge.
Whether all this work will stop the congestion every rush hour, or just move it to another location, is anyone's guess!!