Trinity could tout roundabouts

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Staff and consultants will meet with Trinity businesses to get input on NM 502 corridor alternatives

By Kirsten Laskey

Los Alamos drivers may be maneuvering through roundabouts on Trinity Drive in the future.

From four proposed alternatives that the NM 502 corridor study developed to improve Trinity Drive, the transportation board is recommending that Los Alamos County Council direct staff to further study and gather input on two alternatives ­– A1 and A2.

A1 would remove all traffic signals from Trinity Drive and include roundabouts. A2 proposes to have a mix of roundabouts and existing traffic signals. The board further recommended that county staff research the costs for the two alternatives and report their findings to the transportation board.

Kyle Zimmerman, Public Works director, told the Los Alamos Monitor, staff and consultants hired for the study will meet with businesses on Trinity about the alternatives and get feedback. A presentation about the alternatives will be made to council in January.

Once an alternative is approved, the consultants will analyze how traffic flow would be impacted by that option and present their findings to the community and council.The transportation board listened to a presentation by Jay Renkin, an MIG planner, and Jeff Key, a CDM traffic engineer, during their special meeting Wednesday night. Both Renkin and Key are part of the consulting team working on the NM 502 corridor study. After hosting public hearings and sessions with stakeholders to collect input on the study, the consultants reported their findings to the transportation board.

A1 would feature eight roundabouts along Trinity and a two-lane road--one in each direction--with a landscaped median down the middle, which would restrict left turns. Access to Los Alamos Medical Center would be relocated to 35th and 36th Streets.  There would also be a bike lane and pedestrian crossings. The alternative also proposes landscaped buffer strips as well as wider sidewalks. There would be room for right turn bays and bus bays.

A2 shares a lot of similarities to A1. The existing signals would be kept in place and left turn bays would be constructed in place of the landscaped median at intersections.

The third alternative or alternative B would feature four lanes. There would be two through lanes in the middle with landscaped medians and a local access lane in each direction to accommodate right turn access, bus traffic and shared bicycle traffic.   

The final option, or alternative C, would be a four-lane roadway with a raised median. There would be no left turn lane, no bike lane and minimal pedestrian access.

Tuesday night, about 100 people attended the public meeting. Of those who submitted a written comment, 58 percent were in favor of the alternative A1, 15 percent chose A2 alternative, 10 percent indicated they preferred either A1 or A2, 15 percent said they wanted alternative B, and 2 percent chose alternative C.

In improving Trinity Drive, board member Janie O’Rourke said the goals are to provide safety, accessibility to all users, improve conditions for residents and improve pedestrian crossing opportunities that are safe and accessible.

“A1 and A2 both seemed to accommodate all the users with more safety and accessibility,” she said.
The transportation board acknowledged that roundabouts seem to be controversial in the community, but they do offer a number of benefits.

Board chair Khalil Spencer said the roundabout treatments in A1 appear to have less travel time. O’Rourke added, roundabouts have fewer car crashes than traffic signals. She said at a traffic intersection, there are 32 potential crash points whereas a roundabout only has eight. Plus, because cars are moving at slower speeds, there is less danger to drivers, walkers and bikers, O’Rourke said.

An issue with all the options, however, O’Rourke said, is that a center median eliminates making left turns except at intersections. With a roundabout, to access a business that is on the left-hand side of Trinity, a driver would need to go around the roundabout and go back to turn into a business. “While this seems inefficient, it may not take any longer than what we do today, which is to sit in the middle turn lane and wait for a cap in oncoming traffic,” O’Rourke said. “And it is certainly safer.”

There is still more work to be done before any final decisions can be made; Spencer said he expects the transportation board will see more feedback from the staff and consultants as they look into the two alternatives. There needs to be a consensus around the final design, he said.

This is an important project to address, especially with the potential capital project planned for Trinity such as the Trinity Site Revitalization, Spencer said. “It (Trinity) needs to be rebuilt anyway.  It has very few pedestrian crossings and we’ll be putting in even more residential and commercial properties on the south side … so we need to do something if we are going to follow our own design goals for a walkable, bicycle-friendly community.”

No Roundabouts, Please.

I thought the county residents already made it abundantly clear that we do not want roundabouts! But now, only the alternatives with roundabouts are to be further studied. This is insane!

(I think we are going in circles here. *grin*)

Tiresome, isn't it?

This is the third time a "study" has decided we need roundabouts on an arterial road. And, this time, to make roundabouts more attractive, they want to squeeze the whole road. Sure is tiresome.

There's lots else wrong with the study. See www.wcmead.org for more of the NM502 Study's "roundabout reasoning".

William Mead

Trinity Dr. Comments

Ignoring the roundabouts, which is another topic by itself, I want to understand this correctly. The first proposal is to reduce a very busy road down to two lanes so we can be bicycle and pedestrian friendly? Please, tell me this isn't so.

The downtown eateries depend heavily on the weekday lunch trade to stay in business. If you make an already busy and congested road even slower and more congested, the LANL folks will not give up a parking space to sit in more traffic just to go out for lunch. If you do not believe me, ask them. Not even to mention the morning traffic as LANL folks try to get to the downtown offices.

"Traffic Calming" has become "traffic slowdown" on Central when a bicyclist decides to ride down by the post office all the way to the Hilltop House. Add in the pedestrians that walk side by side in the street because the sidewalks are to narrow to push two strollers side by side and you have a mess that can only be made by politicians eager to spend Other Peoples Money.

Why don't we keep 4 lanes, widen the side walks so seniors in mobility vehicles and pedestrians can use them, and even, wide enough so bicyclists can be on them at the same time? This would eliminate the "hell strips the county or property owners have to maintain, no more "bump outs" and be forward looking to the aging population and the use of slower moving neighborhood vehicles or "golf cars."

Com'on LA, we are supposed to be the best and brightest. We can easily come up with something better than a return to the old idea of routing tourists through slow streets to peel every last dollar from them. No more fancy consultants, lets think outside the box.

Roundabouts Revisited

I was a part of the transportation board for several years. The proposal for roundabouts came to us, and originally we were 7 to 0 against.

After review of the use and advantages of these systems, we became 6 to 1 in favor.

Roundabouts provide less serious accidents, less maintenance, complete elimination of "T Bone" type accidents, less traffic stop and starts, and are safer for pedestrians.

We were brought some fairly sophisticated models and simulations that made the point well.

The most convincing moment for several of us in favor of roundabouts was when several blind residents of the county explained that the roundabouts were much safer, because traffic only came from one direction, e.g., there were no left turns across their path in the street.

The roundabouts on Diamond were quashed because the Council rejected the 6 to 1 recommendation of the Transportation board after an emotional and completely uninformed presentation by a resident who had not studied the matter. It was around election time, and several councilors caved to the emotional and uninformed response.

I after a recent trip to the UK, where I drove nearly 1000 miles (971) and encountered many roundabouts, I still strongly support their use in our community. I do suggest that we continue to drive on the right hand side of the road.

I hope the current transportation board reaches the same conclusion we did several years ago, and the Council is able to accept the recommendations of the citizens who volunteered time away from their families to analyze, discuss, and review the issue rather than give credibility an uninformed last minute attack.