The West Commerce overpass, Brownwood’s first effort to manage a problematic intersection using an elevated thruway, offered an early attempt to encourage local motorists to learn modern traffic practices such as the one Mrs Boatman has described. Spanning the transitional phase of the Austin Avenue/Belle Plain expressway, this industrial achievement, well ahead of its time, incorporated into its design the first on/off ramp available for use in Brownwood. However, this particular element of engineering genius remained a mystery as it presented itself as a source of intimidation for most drivers who avoided it at all costs. Thus, city officials abandoned the design during the Truman Harlow project, Brownwood’s second installment in their growing saga of overpass construction, which features the unique opportunity for motorists approaching from Carnegie or the Old Coleman Road to wait on a passing train despite the fact there is an overpass in place. In lieu of an on-ramp, designers opted for the u-turn feature instead, installed approximately between the streets of Whaley and Gill in front of the St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Today’s motorists can only reference the West Commerce structure in honor of Brownwood’s historical past as it has since been replaced with an updated traffic light configuration. “My daddy took us up that old ramp on Commerce once when I was young,” said Bertha Northseider. “We must’ve waited for an hour at the top. We didn’t know what to do. Merging wasn’t started in Brownwood yet. I’m glad it’s here now. I plan to use it soon.”
In other news, one local resident passed out from dehydration while waiting for the notoriously tardy left turn signal at the Carnegie and Fisk traffic light, then later endured a brief stay at BMRC.