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Monday, March 2, 2009

Forestville Roundabout - Concerns about safety

Hi Vesta:
I went to the traffic circle meeting last Thursday and saw your report on Friday. I guess you heard Ramona's concerns, but you didn't hear mine.

I was alarmed by the sloppiness and lack of concern for safety by the county road planners. Their proposed design creates a blind T intersection at Hidden Lake Rd onto a state highway filled with gravel and garbage trucks. This is deadly. The designers seem to be concerned about sight-line issues at the traffic circle but they completely ignored the other intersection, Hidden Lake Rd, impacted by the new design. The sight-line issue at this blind intersection is critical because when cars enter Hwy 116 at Hidden Lake Rd they do so from a dead stop. When headed east, the drivers need to see far enough west to judge whether they have enough time and space to get up to the speed of the traffic flow on Hwy 116. Currently, turning vehicles can see a long way down the hill westward so that drivers can judge if they can safely make it. When the designers carelessly revised this intersection, Hidden Lake Rd drivers will now have to enter Hwy 116 from the inside of a curve, creating a blind intersection. The turning drivers won't be able to see further than a hundred feet down the hill. I believe these drivers need to see much further down the road, probably 300 to 400 feet more for this to be safe.

I brought this to the attention of the engineers and our supervisor. I was told that the design we saw was "conceptual" but that doesn't make me any happier. So often, these conceptual things become carved in stone and then we become stuck with something that is totally inappropriate. I don't understand how some safety basics weren't covered from the get-go.

Let me explain. Most drivers coming up the hill, headed east are going, at least, 45 MPH. Even though there is a speed reduction sign slightly before Hidden Lake Rd, no one seems to slow down until they get to the top of the hill. At 45 MPH, a car will travel 660 feet in 10 seconds. A turning car, from Hidden Lake Rd, typically takes 10 or more seconds, going from a dead stop, to get up to the 45 MPH speed of the traffic flow. In that 10 seconds, the turning car will travel about 330 feet. In that 10 seconds, a vehicle coming up the hill will close up about 330 feet on the turning car. If the turning car can't see, at least 330 feet (preferable 400+ feet), the vehicle coming up the hill will only have a second or so warning of the turning car and have to brake severely to avoid hitting it. This is a recipe for disaster and I am not going to sit by quietly while the highway designers push ahead on a death trap.

This problem can remedied by maintaining the current alignment of Hwy 116 and not changing the Hidden Lake Rd intersection. It would be still possible to build the traffic circle. It will may not be the cheap alternative that the county seems to prefer but my life, my loved ones lives and my neighbor lives are worth it. I don't want to be a victim of the county's carelessness and cut rate attitude.

Ken Brown
Hidden Lake Rd

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