Transportation board to discuss policy

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By Kirsten Laskey

If looking at a big project or a study and having a policy that sets goals to work within is beneficial, it is also something Los Alamos County has lacked. Tonight, during the transportation board meeting, work will be done to reverse that situation.
The board will meet from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Pajarito Cliff Site Building 1 conference room to hammer out a resolution to establish a policy for design of streets and right-of-ways in Los Alamos County. The resolution willl then go to county council on Nov. 9 for consideration.
The resolution proposes four points to be followed when designing new streets and right-of-ways or redesigning or reconstructing existing ones.  The four points include:
• The needs, convenience and safety of all potential users including motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders and operators of other evolving modes of transportation such as low speed vehicles shall be studied and taken into account;
 • Street and right-of-way designs and land use decisions shall be mutually reinforcing, to create effective synergy between streets and rights-of-way and land uses;  
• The county’s system of streets and rights-of-way should provide transportation choices while promoting safety, health, economic vitality, environmental sustainability and livability throughout the community; and
• Street and right-of-way designs shall incorporate published engineering and planning best practices.
Rick Bohn, director of Community Development Department, said currently the public works department has some standards of its own about certain types of streets. However, he said it is not clear if these standards apply to other situations that might be contemplated.
One of things that started work toward a policy, Bohn said, was that the county’s development code has specific designs for downtown streets. However, these specific designs have not been implemented, and are outdated and incorrect.
Ron Moses, vice chair of the transportation board, said there had been an effort to develop a street policy for the county. There was a downtown streets committee that started to meet approximately two years ago. The committee gathered county staff, community members, business owners, LA Walks and transportation board members to try and develop a vision for streets that are either newly constructed or renovated with availability and good usage for all modes of transportation including motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.
Moses said the committee attempted to develop a vision for aesthetics, planning and business utility.
When it was presented to council last year, Janie O’Rourke, a member of the transportation board said, council sent it back to the committee because they had concerns. The concern was, she said, that what happens to the downtown streets affects all streets so the council decided all roads in the county should be addressed.
“It wasn’t broad enough,” O’Rourke said.
The downtown committee was eventually dissolved and the transportation board was given the task of creating a policy.
Having a policy is a step in the right direction, O’Rourke said, because it gives the county principals to follow. “We want to have general principals that meet the community’s needs and visions, and serve all portions or all parts of our community well,” she said.
Transportation Board Chair Kahlil Spencer said, “As we watch our community evolve in terms of land use we have to make sure the structure and the way we manage our streets is compatible with that land use.”
For example, Spencer said historically there had not been a lot of housing on the south side of Trinity, but that is changing.
Streets need to be looked at in terms of what is the total traffic burden; a situation where the county needs to play catch up with zoning is not desired, he said. This is about planning ahead.
Some people do have concerns about the proposed resolution. Moses told the Monitor prior to tonight’s meeting, “I would like to see it more specific myself. I am concerned that the document could become so watered down that it would become ineffective.”
But having a policy is important, Bohn said. “It gives people guidance and that means if a developer is proposing a big project or the county is contemplating hiring a consultant to do a study or if the county is looking for a future project, it gives everybody guidance and a base to start from … some goals and policy regarding street design .. it helps everybody understand what our common goals (are) and it makes the process go a little more smoothly.”