Cars skid down a sun-baked road, jockeying brutally for position. Some drivers scream and others laugh maniacally as they hang out of windows. Then one pulls out a flamethrower and blasts sizzling columns of fire at tailgaters. Another hurls a spear with an explosive tip, blasting the back of a truck to smoking ruin.
The carnage is a scene from last year's postapocalyptic hit film Mad Max: Fury Road, but to Miami commuters, it feels like cinéma vérité. And for good reason. Driving in Dade means both death-defying terror and mind-numbing boredom, often in the same commute. Miami's traffic sludge was seventh worst in the nation last year, according to GPS service TomTom, while the American Highway Users Alliance found that three of the nation's worst bottlenecks are right here in the Magic City. For pedestrians and cyclists, it's also the fourth most dangerous city in the nation, says Smart Growth America.
Our choices are part scientific, part anecdotal, and 100 percent unbearable no matter how sweet your ride.
Yet even amid all of that motorist misery, some places stand out as particularly awful. To narrow down South Florida's ten worst intersections, New Times staffers consulted traffic and accident data, spoke with experts, and mined our own experiences as tortured commuters. Our choices are part scientific, part anecdotal, and 100 percent unbearable no matter how sweet your ride.
Midtown Miami. NE Second Avenue and 36th Street: Ever ride a bike through a maze of pure exhaust, boiling rage, and paralyzing frustration? Try cycling up to the border of the Design District and midtown, where a seething mass of shoppers and local commuters collide every day with the thousands of cars trying to merge on and off the Julia Tuttle Causeway to Miami Beach. There can't be a worse example of urban design than this stoplight, which utterly fails to control a confusing mess of three roads located by working railroad tracks. The left-turn lane on eastbound 36th Street always backs up across the entire intersection, blocking north-south traffic and sparking more road rage than the average Critical Mass ride. But hey, you're on a bike! Try not to point and laugh as you weave among the immobile cars. Seriously, though — drivers at this intersection are just furious enough to fling a car door in your path.
West Kendall. SW 117th Avenue and Kendall Drive: Deep thoughts cross Michael Rosenberg's mind as he sits for hours near this mind-bogglingly awful suburban mess. "I'd like to see a traffic study of people's brains," Rosenberg says. "What happens to all that rage? Do people honk at other people more than they'd normally honk? Do they yell at their wife and kids more?" Earlier this year, Rosenberg and other members of the Kendall Federation of Homeowners Associations actually demanded a moratorium on new building in the area until someone fixes the traffic. Not that he's holding his breath. "I look at the people doing this commute every day, and I just think of the mental anguish," he says. "I talked to one lady who does a three-hour commute every single day on public transit. She accepts it as normal. That's insanity."
Coconut Grove/Coral Gables. South Dixie Highway at every intersection south of I-95: There you are, cruising south on I-95 with the downtown and Brickell skyline to your left and Little Havana and the Roads to your right. It's the last call for the interstate that begins somewhere in Maine. And as you reach the end, it magically morphs into a simple city road, which locals call either U.S. 1 or South Dixie Highway depending upon how OG Miami they are. But what was a smooth jaunt past downtown has now turned into infuriating stop-and-go gridlock. You can't choose just one intersection along the highway, because they are all bad. No matter the time of day, South Dixie is the Ninth Circle of Hell. Adding to the pain is the fact that Metrorail zips rapidly parallel to the road, a constant, frustrating reminder that if the county had built an effective mass-transit system, you wouldn't be in this loathsome situation.
South Miami-Dade. SW 117th Avenue and 152nd Street: How do I get onto the damn Turnpike? And where in @#$%$ is the zoo? The kids are screaming. Ice cream is melting. No wonder this is the second most dangerous intersection in Miami-Dade, based on the county's survey of accident data in 2014. Six lanes go in each direction, with scorched, subtropical signage confusing far more than helping anyone decide which way to go. This is perhaps the most baffling chunk of concrete in the Western Hemisphere. And even if you discern the meaning of those friggin' hieroglyphics, you have to maneuver the Ronald Reagan Turnpike, where drivers hit 220 mph aiming to win one for the Gipper.
Fort Lauderdale. A1A and Las Olas Boulevard: If A1A is one big river of traffic despair, the intersection of A1A and Las Olas is the peak of that horror. Sandwiched between the debauchery of beachfront bars and rubber-necking French Canadians, this intersection is tougher to pass than a kidney stone. It doesn't help that pedestrians use "Walk" and "Don't Walk" signs as suggestions rather than orders. Top that with stumbling drunks, awkward cyclists, and the occasional lost sea gull, and you've got a 5 mph stretch of hell (that feels like an eternity if you happen to catch the drawbridge up). Good news! Everything is about to get a lot worse now that city officials are planning to convert the parking lot on the corner into an entertainment venue and building a massive four-story garage along the corridor. But hey, at least there's an ocean view.