N.M. 502 needs four lanes

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Sprinkle gold dust on the road to give it that yellow brick look

The two lane Trinity Drive preferred option presented by the MIG  consultants at the recent Transportation Board meeting should be ejected by our county councilors as being both unworkable in practice and way too expensive for even a town so well funded as Los  Alamos.
Imagine the daily rush hour traffic if Trinity is narrowed down to only two lanes. According to the official traffic measurements, which were done for this study, there are routinely peak traffic rates of 1,500 vehicles/hr with some weekdays seeing 1,900 vehicles/hr during lunch hour.
Most of this traffic is westbound in the morning and  eastbound in the afternoon rush hours while at lunch hour the traffic is  pretty evenly divided between east and west.  
The MIG presentation at  the January public meetings stated that traffic rates at daily afternoon rush hours were approaching peak capacity levels for the proposed roundabouts with all their Option A designs (see county website  to view this MIG presentation).  I agree with this because roundabouts do have capacity limitations.  I think that the only way  the roundabouts could handle this volume of traffic as peak capacity  is approached would be for the cars to be continuously traveling at enough speed to maintain the overall traffic rate but also be fairly densely packed in the roundabouts, hopefully several car lengths  apart as traffic enters and exits the roundabouts.  It could be very  challenging for drivers to get through the roundabouts at these times.  As they say in those commercials on TV, “don’t attempt this yourself as it requires professionally trained drivers.” With just a  little rain, fog, sleet or snow, we will soon have a traffic nightmare on our two-lane road at commuting rush hour or lunch hour as the roundabouts are overwhelmed and traffic simply creeps along  slowly at bumper-to-bumper traffic jam conditions.
Some have said the  Golden, Colo., roundabouts do provide a good model  for those planned on N.M. 502.   
This would actually be correct if the  N.M. 502 design was for a four-lane road.    
A busy stretch of S. Golden  Road had been a six-lane road, which was changed into a 4-lane road  with two-lane roundabouts in a commercialized area with many  stores.   
This is not exactly comparable to the N.M. 502 design, which is planned  to be a two-lane road with single lane roundabouts.  
I believe that the traffic load on S. Golden Road may be comparable to or even a bit  less than N.M. 502 and the roundabouts there work well enough because they chose a design with a four-lane road and two-lane roundabouts.
I  don’t understand why our council went for a design with only two lanes, when the four-lane Option B was provided as well.  
I do feel that Option B, the four-lane model would work best on N.M. 502.  
The MIG  analysis of their Option A is overly optimistic and in my opinion their two-lane model will probably not really work well in practice if  the roundabouts are approaching peak capacity conditions at daily  rush hours.  
It would be helpful if  MIG analysts could tell us the  probability of,  and under what traffic volume or weather conditions can we expect to see their two-lane model fail, providing a Level of  Service D or F, with traffic backing up trying to get through  roundabouts at rush hours.
Another reason I think this project should not be approved is quite simply the overall cost, which will likely dwarf the cost for the  Diamond Drive work and prove to be the largest ever road project for  Los Alamos County.  
How many millions of dollars is the county going  to commit to this project?  
Recent roundabout construction in  Roseburg, Ore., has the town council upset at the near doubling of  the total project costs due to a need to redesign their roundabouts after some had already been built.  
These roundabout projects are not  nearly as inexpensive as a signaled intersection and our consultants  are planning eight roundabouts along a four-mile corridor.
In addition to construction costs, these roundabouts will also require compensation to property owners to obtain right of way access.  
The  lawyers in town will be busy  attempting to provide just compensation  from the county for the affected property owners.  
I do want to see  N.M. 502 improved and made safer for all, but there are other more cost effective ways than MIG’s preferred two lane option with eight roundabouts.
At a time when our schools are losing significant money due to new state funding formulas it does not seem appropriate to begin such a large road project.  
If we really have all this money to burn and  still proceed with this grand project, then perhaps we should add  some gold dust to the new road concrete so we can truly have our New  Mexico version of a “yellow brick road” leading to “somewhere over  the rainbow.”

Norman Delamater
Los Alamos