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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Garden Ring Road Could Use Pruning

Anyone who owns a car in Moscow is bound to agree on one basic fact: driving on the Garden Ring during the day is a total nightmare.

Is anything being done to improve the situation? In search of an answer, I called the Moscow Traffic Police, or GAI, this week.

A GAI spokesman, Alexander Fanasov, told me that he and his colleagues consider the Garden Ring one of the most difficult and dangerous driving spots in Moscow. Between 12,000 and 13,000 cars are on the road every hour, he said.

The reason for the heavy traffic is clear: Moscow may have a lot of radial roads that help drivers get in and out of the center, but the Garden Ring is the only way to get quickly from east to west, for example. Experienced drivers may prefer to take back roads, but most people prefer to stay on the Ring, despite all the traffic jams.

How to reduce the endless tie-ups on and around the Ring? "To prevent traffic jams, the Moscow Traffic Police must change the timing for the traffic lights," Fanasov said. He added that the radial roads that intersect with the Ring were meant to have traffic lights that halt traffic for just two minutes, but this has been prolonged to as long as seven minutes and even 10 minutes in some places. The end result: more traffic jams.

The heavy traffic flow on the Garden Ring has meant the GAI have had to take matters into their own hands -- literally. Instead of waiting for traffic lights, many major crossroads, like the one at Prospekt Mira and the Garden Ring, have a GAI officer regularly posted to ensure a somewhat faster-moving traffic flow.

Nonetheless, the number of accidents on the Garden Ring is on the rise. Fanasov said congestion on the road means that the distance between cars is much shorter than it used to be -- and about 30 percent shorter than the distance the GAI considers safe.

The accidents on the Garden Ring are not the most serious in the city, however. Rather ironically, this is because the vast number of cars on the road mean that drivers are forced to move at relatively low speeds, Fanasov said.

One of the best solutions to the traffic problem on the Garden Ring would be increasing the number of overpasses at intersections to funnel off the traffic flow. Unfortunately, the Moscow city government can't afford this.

I have a different solution: Close the Garden Ring to big trucks. Mayor Luzhkov, this is your chance to unclog the traffic and improve the environment in one easy decision. Why not try it?