Rhetoric pushes bounds of civility

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Once completed, people are generally pleased with result

I am compelled to respond to recent letters to the Los Alamos Monitor regarding the proposed improvements to N.M. 502, locally named Trinity Drive. One was published April 16, written by  Anthony Amsden and the other printed April 19, in the ViewPoint section, by Norman Delamater.
These writers echo the opinions of a number of vocal detractors, and both of these writers are under the false impression that four lanes means better traffic flow. If one were to consider only the difference between four and two lanes, they would be correct, but they are missing the point.
The alternatives, in the extremes, are four lanes with traffic lights (more or less our current situation), and two lanes with no traffic lights (Option A1).
The principal benefit to traffic flow is the elimination of the signals. Most of N.M. 502 is two lanes already, and the metering of traffic on and off the hill is controlled by the existing two-lane section that runs from the Y (intersection with N.M. 4) to DP Road.
Traffic flows continuously and smoothly along this part of the highway. The roundabouts, with no traffic lights or stop signs, would allow that free flow of traffic to continue all the way to Diamond Drive. If the Diamond/Trinity intersection was also free of signals, the flow of traffic could continue, unimpeded, to Omega Bridge and the lab.
He asks us to imagine rush hour traffic if restricted to two lanes. I would counter that we should imagine rush hour traffic unimpeded by traffic lights!
There have been many opinions presented on this issue, but there is hard information as well. The irony is that in this town of people educated in science, engineering and the value of data over opinion, the opinions may well carry the day.
Delamater in particular states in his ViewPoint piece the phrases “I think that...”, “I believe that...”, “I do feel...”, and “I don’t understand...”.
At least he has couched his opinion with these identifiers, rather than presenting them as fact. Unfortunately, he missed the recent Transportation Board meeting, where the county’s consultants showed how traffic flow would improve with the installation of roundabouts. This is exactly the information that people are looking for, and yet many want to deny.
Amsden starts his letter off by saying “instead of being distracted by statistics...”, revealing that he is not interested in actual information.
The ferocity with which people have expressed their negative misconceptions about the freely flowing design has taken me aback, pushing past the bounds of civility at the recent Transportation Board meeting. I was aghast as one citizen, unable to contain his inexplicable anger, actually swore at the presenters. In his frustration, Delamater resorts to sophomoric sarcasm in his letter.
Detractors apparently have nothing better to offer than opinions, swearing in public and sarcastic commentary. None have data or other hard information to support their case.
Let’s clear up some misconceptions regarding roundabouts. Traffic flow using two through lanes without lights is actually improved over that with four lanes and with traffic lights. None of the traffic now or in the future is nearing capacity of the A1 design, contradictory to Delamater’s statements.
His fears of “bumper to bumper traffic” better describe the current situation of vehicles stacked up at a traffic light than it does a continuous flow of traffic. Delamater also resorts to hyperbole to make the roundabouts seem difficult to negotiate in a vehicle, “...as it requires professionally trained drivers.”
If he finds roundabouts to be so daunting, perhaps it is time to give up his license. Regarding public participation, Mr. Amsden states that “the roundabout, two-lane proposal is being slipped under the radar...” This is an absurd statement reeking of conspiratorial paranoia, considering the many public meetings and discussion that have taken place. The public has been heavily involved, and has made many positive contributions to the project.
The message from these meetings has been that, rabid commentary aside, many people strongly prefer the benefits that Option A1 would provide.
In short, these are: shorter commute times through town, less severe automobile crashes, improved fuel efficiency multiplied by thousands of vehicles, less air and noise pollution, lower maintenance costs for the intersections, safer pedestrian crossings, and improved access to residences and businesses along the corridor with dedicated turning bays that do not interfere with through traffic.
The only disadvantage I can see is the necessity to purchase the corners of some private properties in order to acquire sufficient right of way for the roundabout construction.
Let us please be sensible to the facts in this decision, and not be swayed by ill-informed opinions.
As this drama plays out, consider that it is predictably following similar instances that have been documented around the country —  There are vocal naysayers as the project is proposed and constructed, but after it is all said and done, people are generally quite pleased with the result.

John Tauxe, PhD, PE
Los Alamos