Collision course

“I gotta get over. I gotta get over.” That mantra signals the beginning of a scary merger onto a Sacramento freeway. Your fingers tighten on the steering wheel as you check the mirror and prepare for a merge into a tangle of congestion, and you only hope split-second aggressive moves will pay off in a safe exit.

Try leaving southbound I-5 onto Business 80. Once you’ve made the curve unscathed, you have to fight to move multiple lanes to your right to get off in time to make the 15th Street east exit. There’s a problem: Drivers on your right zooming in from northbound I-5 want to get to their left. It creates a conflict.

What kind of engineering psychopath designed this stretch that doesn’t allow for a longer, smoother merge? Whoever it was is probably retired now; these antiquated freeways were built in the late 1960s. These clogging patterns on the “W-X,” as radio reporter Joe Miano likes to say, are nothing new (see “Eye in the sky,” page 20).

What is new on our pages is some “Capitol punishment” being doled out by our new political columnist, Jill Stewart. She’s ready to tackle the massive job of writing about the tangle of tribulations facing California politics and government. And she won’t be shy about tackling it head on and assigning blame where it is due.

Policy and politics in Sacramento are ripe subjects to be examined given the last few years of crisis, and Stewart is up for the job. She is a former columnist for the New Times Los Angeles, and she was named columnist of the year by the Los Angeles Press Club. She’ll be traveling north to report on how things really work at the power base, and her first effort is on page 13.