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A recent letter by Steven Gray grossly misportrayed the Los Alamos Transportation Board’s analysis of the 502 design options.
This letter will address some of Mr. Gray’s comments as well as represent what the board actually did in carrying out its mission to advise the Los Alamos County Council on transportation matters.
Although Mr. Gray wrote “...(the) Transportation Board announced that they had a perfect solution to traffic on Trinity Drive — traffic circles.”
In actuality, what the TB did was recommend further study of the design candidate(s) that best responded to all of the issues the county was trying to address including the goals described in the county’s recently adopted street design policy. This included roundabouts, which technically, are not equivalent to “traffic circles”.
Mr. Gray continues “They (the TB) ...had hired a landscaping firm that found some software that real traffic engineers use to model these circles.”
In actuality, the TB doesn’t hire anyone; its mission is to advise council on policy. County staff controls operations, including the actual hiring of consulting firms. But from the first MIG presentations (and MIG is an urban planning firm with expertise in transportation planning) there was a concern voiced from some in the public as well as a desire from the T-Board that sufficient capacity during peak volumes of single lane roundabouts be firmly demonstrated.
Throughout the process, the TB continued this request and ultimately was involved in the selection of Ourston Roundabout Engineering Inc. and in the subsequent commencing of that review.
The public’s critique of the MIG modelling played a key role in this process.
Mr. Gray writes, “The landscaper’s modeling showed that Trinity with traffic circles could be a wonderland of puppies and butterflies and still have efficient traffic flow with no back-ups.”
MIG and CDM, to be sure, are not simply landscapers but are an urban planning consultant and certified engineering company.
The T-Board nonetheless recommended that a (second) engineering firm with a recognized excellence in roundabout design, Ourston Roundabout Engineering Inc, be hired to perform a peer review of the single lane roundabout capacity.
Mr. Gray further comments, “First, they (the TB) stated that maybe more than 20 minutes backups are not such a bad thing.
This after having previously claimed that circles wouldn’t result in any backups.”
Mr. Gray is correlating study data from the rejected single-lane roundabout design to a comment from an unrelated discussion.
A proposed HAWK system or similar modification to improve pedestrian amenities would impact the corridor travel time to some degree and a comment was made that the impact would be acceptable.
That comment does not pertain to the board’s official position, but was part of an unrelated discussion.
“Second, they (the TB) discussed developing ways to get rid of some of the cars that currently use Trinity Drive, such as by charging for driving down Trinity.”
As part of the process of exploring solutions to complex problems, the TB does a fair amount of brainstorming, not all of which is forwarded to the county council in Board recommendations. Such brainstorming is critical to final policy recommendations and must be done, even if it is outside the box.
Traffic engineers will tell you that certain problems are better addressed with engineering than by posting new “rules” and attempting to enforce them, but engineering solutions have their own explicit costs in dollars and policies.
This idea was a brainstorming comment and originated from consideration of London’s implementation of a congestion charge and suggestions that similar charges be imposed in some major U.S. cities to reduce the need for expensive new infrastructure, and was made not by the board, but offered as a discussion point by an individual board member, Mr. Spencer.
This was a discussion point and not representative of the board’s opinions nor was it formalized in any board recommendation to council.
The board must be free to engage in open and creative discussions. Motions to council, not brainstorming comments, are the board’s deliverables.
“The T-board has shown that they simply want traffic circles regardless, and their main focus is not to support ‘all modes of transportation,’ but rather to support all less-common modes of transportation at the expense of cars.”
Again, Mr. Gray is incorrect. The requirements for the corridor have expanded to include the many uses along the corridor, including businesses and residents, as well as other modes of transportation including transit, bikes and pedestrians.
The goals of the Trinity Drive Project that were set out from the beginning and reaffirmed during the early public input include adequate vehicular capacity, multimodal safety and access for all users, accommodation of transit, mitigating noise along the street edge for residents, improving safe access to businesses and residents along Trinity Drive as county has chosen to develop the corridor, as well as improve the north/south linkages to knit together the parallel business strips along Central Avenue and Trinity Drive.
The TB has played an integral part in the public process, hosting presentations and public meetings that were open and documented from the beginning of the study.
Currently, the council has asked that three alternatives be developed for the section of NM502/Trinity Drive extending Tewa Loop to Knecht.
The alternatives to be developed for review will include the NMDOT plan from 2007, a four-lane signalized design; a two-lane roundabout with four or two-lane sections; and a possible additional third option to be determined.
These designs will specifically address the issues of noise abatement, speed reduction, and safe and convenient access for the residents along NM502.
Eugene Dougherty, chair