CONTENTS:




WESTON HAS A SIDEWALK AT SCHOOL ROAD...
West Hartford survey:  to identify potential lawsuits - or to attract them?

Summer Intern On 245-Mile Bike Ride Inspecting West Hartford's Sidewalks
The Hartford Courant
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE, vdelatorre@courant.com
July 23, 2012

WEST HARTFORD — — Until this summer, town intern Nick DiTaranto hadn't hopped on a bike since he was a boy.

Now the 21-year-old is close to completing a 245-mile inspection of every West Hartford sidewalk — the town's most comprehensive sidewalk survey ever — by bicycleThe worn, ripped map on DiTaranto's clipboard is marked up with pen; most of the town streets are traced, like a maze. He has about 40 miles to go.

"It's been quite tiring," said DiTaranto, a civil engineering student and incoming junior at the University of Maine. "I've joked that I don't need a gym membership."

Sidewalks are a common thread in the personal injury lawsuits filed against the town: the cracks and heaves, the trips and falls.

"We spend $300,000 a year just repairing sidewalks," Town Manager Ron Van Winkle said. He blamed "New England and frost ... everything moves."

Frost heaving is when water seeped in soil freezes, expands and lifts the sidewalk. West Hartford has three more years of sidewalk repairs already scheduled, although if one stretch of slab has "heaved a lot, we'll go right away," Van Winkle said.

So far, DiTaranto has logged more than 700 sidewalk issues in a town database during his $10-an-hour internship with the engineering division. Previously, the local sidewalk inspection system was complaint-based. But when DiTaranto's school year ended in early May, and the West Hartford native asked Town Engineer Dave Kraus for work, Kraus proposed the townwide inventory of all 245 miles of sidewalk.

"Dave, my boss, when he first presented the idea of riding the bike, I laughed," DiTaranto said. "I thought he was kidding."

On his riding days — about three or four times a week — DiTaranto usually logs 10 to 15 miles in a bright yellow safety vest, occasionally chatting with curious residents. At first, DiTaranto figured he would divide the town by school neighborhoods and begin inspecting sidewalks that way. His approach got more casual as the summer rolled on.

"They just let me go on my merry way," he said.

DiTaranto spent last Thursday morning on the north side of West Hartford, riding a used police Cannondale bicycle that the town tuned up for his use. A clipboard is attached to the handlebar. (An estimated 100 square feet of sidewalk near the corner of Colony and Norwood roads should be replaced because of chipping and wear and tear, according to his inspection notes.)

A few quick observations from DiTaranto: A stretch of sidewalk on Burr Street, next to town hall, needs to be replaced. And the area around Bristow Middle School tends to have slate sidewalks, which are more brittle and prone to chipping, he said. West Hartford sidewalks are typically concrete slabs.




IF IT AIN'T BROKE, FIX IT - AND WE DON'T MEAN TICKETS
George Orwell surprised it took this long for the CT administration to fix traffic tickets...along with "emergency" legislation on FOI, solid waste siting, and education reform,  perhaps.

Legislature considering traffic-watching devices
The Day
By JC Reindl
Published 03/13/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 03/13/2012 12:40 AM

Hartford - State lawmakers heard testimony Monday for two different types of high-tech traffic law-enforcement devices that could someday guard Connecticut roads and intersections and generate government revenue.

The first technology, red-light enforcement cameras, could be introduced in cities of 48,000 people or more as early as October under legislation now before the General Assembly's Transportation Committee.  Under the bill, municipalities could impose up to $65 in fines and processing fees on motorists who are caught on camera running or rolling through a red light. Scofflaws would receive a ticket in the mail but no points on their license.

"We're enthusiastic about it from a public safety standpoint," said state Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, the committee's co-chairman.

The second technology, called radio-frequency identification, consists of a small transmitter device embedded in a person's vehicle that could instantly notify law enforcement if the vehicle's registration, insurance or emissions compliance expires.  The devices could also be configured to report speeding violations and perform E-ZPass-style collection of tolls.

Paul Scully-Power, a former astronaut and one-time Mystic resident who has conducted research for radio-frequency ID, testified at the Capitol complex in support of a bill that would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to study the potential uses of radio-frequency ID technology for vehicle registration.  He cited driver's license records showing nearly 300,000 uninsured Connecticut motorists in 2007. As many as nine out of 10 of them likely weren't punished with the $100 minimum fine, he said.

But radio-frequency ID devices could have immediately identified all the violators and generated almost $30 million, if they paid up. "It would give the state an income for finding those violators," said Scully-Power.

Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia allow red-light cameras. No state has yet tried radio-frequency ID for traffic law enforcement, officials said, although the technology is being used on a limited basis in collection of tolls.  Scully-Power said versions of the technology are used for U.S. border patrols, State Department passports and for tracking military equipment. He told lawmakers he recently helped a firm bring vehicular radio-frequency ID to Thailand.

Maynard said radio-frequency ID, if it happens in Connecticut, would give law enforcement the ability to quickly identify lawbreakers that was lost when the state stopped requiring visible registration stickers on windshields or license plates.  And revenue generated from better enforcement could help fund much-needed road and bridge repairs across the state, he said.

"This is a way of providing a good law-enforcement tool, but coincidentally, each of those things also points to a revenue stream," Maynard said.

Maynard said he was introduced to radio-frequency ID by Scully-Power.

"I think he'd heard of our struggles with revenue issues and keeping up road repairs and bridge repairs," he said.

In regards to red-light cameras, the fines contained in the current bill are significantly smaller than the maximum $124 penalty proposed last year. The population requirement was also decreased from 60,000, although the 48,000 minimum is still too large to qualify any communities in southeastern Connecticut to install the cameras.  Mayors, police chiefs and bike-walk advocates from Connecticut's largest cities spoke in favor of the camera bill at Monday's hearing.

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said he has observed "a drastic increase and a reckless disregard" in his city for traffic laws. He believes traffic cameras would improve drivers' behavior and save lives.

"It's really gotten out of hand," the mayor said.

But Andrew Schneider, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said the results of various traffic studies and data have been mixed at best.

"There are traffic safety experts who will argue these cameras make intersections more dangerous," Schneider said.

He noted that at least 14 states have banned the cameras, and the city of Houston reached a nearly $5 million settlement with camera vendor American Traffic Solutions after residents voted to turn off the red-light cameras despite the city's vendor contract.  Camera vendors often receive a share of the proceeds from traffic tickets issued.

Traffic cameras to catch violators or cash?
Stamford ADVOCATE
Updated 10:18 p.m., Thursday, March 1, 2012

For the seventh year in a row, lawmakers in Hartford are pushing a bill that would allow cities and large towns to install red-light cameras.  The bill failed every time, but now it is backed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, prominent Democrats in the Legislature and some big-city mayors, so supporters think this will be its year.  The cameras, operated by for-profit companies, shoot photographs and video of cars at intersections to catch those that run red lights. The company then issues tickets to motorists and shares the revenue with the municipality and sometimes the state.

Half the states in the nation have passed such legislation, and a half-dozen more have banned the cameras. Some cities that installed them, including Los Angeles, Houston and Albuquerque, killed their contracts.

Opposition centers around whether privatizing traffic enforcement is in the public interest, and whether the cameras are about safety or money.

Some studies say red-light cameras make intersections safer. Others say they reduce the number of dangerous T-bone crashes but increase the number of rear-end crashes, which happen when motorists spot the cameras and slam on their brakes.  State Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, co-chair of the legislature's Transportation Committee and a leading proponent of red-light cameras, said they save lives.  If so, why is there a push for them now, when the number of traffic fatalities nationwide is falling, and has been for 30 years?

Even just the most recent statistics show significant drops in number of U.S. fatalities. From 2007 to 2008, it fell 9.1 percent. From 2008 to 2009, it fell another 10 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Connecticut did even better. The number of fatalities fell 11 percent from 2007 to 2008 and another 26 percent from 2008 to 2009.

Nationwide, alcohol and speeding cause the most fatalities, according to NHTSA. About 10 percent of traffic fatalities are caused by red-light running.

State Department of Transportation figures show the number is smaller in Connecticut. Of the 103,719 accidents in Connecticut in 2009, violating a traffic control signal was a contributing factor in 4,302, DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said. That's a little more than 4 percent and it includes all traffic signals, not just red lights, Nursick said.  Eight people died in six accidents involving violation of a traffic control signal in 2009, Nursick said. None of the accidents occurred in the Stamford area.

The top contributing factor in accidents in Connecticut year after year is following too closely, which causes nearly a third, Nursick said. Next are failure to grant the right of way, driver losing control, speeding and improper lane change, he said. Red-light running comes after that.  Most would agree that running red lights is a perpetual problem and motorists need to learn to obey the law, but critics say the push for cameras now is about money.

In the deep, lingering recession, governments need revenue. Many have large budget gaps, which means fewer police officers to enforce traffic laws. Automated cameras can fill in.  In the United States, two companies equally share 80 percent of the market for traffic enforcement systems -- American Traffic Solutions of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Redflex, a division of an Australian company.

When lawmakers held a press conference in Hartford on the red-light camera bill two weeks ago, they stood in front of a large sign provided by the National Coalition for Safer Roads.  The coalition is a nonprofit group created and funded by American Traffic Solutions, which hired two Connecticut lobbying firms for this legislative session. Last year the company spent $84,000 lobbying for camera legislation, the Hartford Courant has reported.

Millions of dollars are at stake for such companies and for governments.

Connecticut's bill still is being written, but so far it looks like a ticket from a red-light camera would cost $50 or $75, Guerrera said. It would not affect your insurance rate and the Department of Motor Vehicles would not count it against your driver's license.

The bill would allow cities and towns with populations of at least 48,000 to install cameras and split the ticket revenue with the vendor and the state, Guerrera said.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group warns municipalities to be cautious before signing over traffic enforcement to a private company that profits from ticket fines.

According to U.S. PIRG, cities have had problems with contracts that link the amount of money they pay the company to the number of tickets issued. American Traffic Solutions said it would charge Connecticut cities $4,750 a month per camera, which means there would be an incentive for each camera to generate enough ticket revenue to cover that amount each month.

Some contracts penalize cities that increase the length of yellow lights, which can reduce red-light violations and therefore the number of tickets. Other contracts allow companies to override a city's choice of intersection for a camera if the company thinks it won't generate enough tickets. Still other contracts penalize cities that veto too many potential violations caught on camera.

According to U.S. PIRG, when the residents of Houston voted to turn off the cameras in 2010, American Traffic Solutions claimed the city owed the company $25 million for ending the contract before it expired.

Some contracts require cities to also issue tickets to motorists who are caught on camera making a right turn on red without a full stop. That significantly increases the number of tickets.  Guerrera said Connecticut's proposed bill likely will include right turns on red.  Red-light camera systems also can measure speed, so they could be used to ticket speeders in the future.

Legislators expect to propose the camera bill next week, Guerrera said.



INTERSECTIONS

Refer to Chapter XI of the AASHTO Green Book - Chapter 8 (this has been edited and several pictures and tables do not appear on this page.
 

 BACKGROUND

 At grade intersections are one of the most critical and most complicated elements in highway design. The efficiency, safety, speed, cost of
 operation, and capacity of the highway system depend on the design of its intersections. Design criteria that are used to create the most efficient
 roadways are easily thwarted when that roadway meets up with intersecting traffic vying for the same limited roadway space. In urban and
 suburban areas in particular, the capacity of signalized intersections can effectively define the capacity of the highway system. Add the need
 safely to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians with varying degrees of mobility, and the need to handle left and right turns, and the challenge
 faced by designers becomes even more complicated.

 The Basics of Intersection Design

 As stated in the AASHTO Green Book, the main objective of intersection design is to:

      ...reduce the severity of potential conflicts between motor vehicles, buses, trucks, bicycles, pedestrians, and facilities,
      while facilitating the convenience, ease, and comfort of people traversing the intersections.(p. 627)
 


Two kinds of intersections - at left busy, and at right, designed to limit thru traffic.

 INTERSECTION DESIGN ELEMENTS

 As is the case with other aspects of the highway design process, designers can use a wide range of intersection design elements in
 combination to provide both operational quality and safety. These include:

      Traffic islands to separate conflicting vehicle movements
      Street closures or realinements to simplify the number and orientation of traffic movements through an intersection
      Separate left and rightturn lanes to remove slowmoving or stopped vehicles from through traffic lanes
      Medians and channelized islands to provide refuge for pedestrians and bicyclists out of the vehicular traveled way.

 The following paragraphs summarize of primary intersection design guidelines.

 Angle of Intersection

 Crossing roadways should intersect at 90 degrees, if possible, and at no less than 75 degrees. Skew angles of 60 degrees or less may need
 geometric countermeasures, such as reconstruction, or traffic control, such as signalization.

 Horizontal and Vertical Alinement

 The alinement before and through an intersection must promote driver awareness, operate well under frequent braking, and be easy to drive, so
 that the navigational task is not too difficult. The Green Book has recommended values for the minimum stopping sight distance needed based
 on the design speed of the approach roads. The design of intersections should also incorporate provisions for intersection sight distance.
 

Medians

 Medians, either raised or painted, provide a physical separation between opposing traffic flows. They also provide a refuge area for
 pedestrians to wait at crossing locations. Medians are a standard form of channelization at rural roadways and urban street intersections
 carrying four or more lanes. There are two principal functions of medians specifically located at intersections:

      Separating opposing traffic flows
      Providing storage for vehicles making left and Uturns and vehicles crossing traffic and shielding pedestrians

 Another important benefit of a median in an urban area is that it offers a green space for trees and lowgrowing plant material. Careful
 consideration is needed, however, to select the proper location and type of plantings. Particularly in narrow medians, plantings can create
 maintenance problems, and trees can cause visual obstructions if not carefully located.

 Field studies and accident analysis provide similar findings on the operational and safety effects of the median width at intersections.' At rural
 unsignalized intersections, accidents and undesirable driving behavior decrease as the median width increases. In contrast, at suburban
 signalized and unsignalized intersections, accidents and undesirable driving behavior increase as the median width increases. 1 Median
 Intersection Design, NCHRP Report 375, Transportation Research Board, National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 1995.

 In other words, at rural unsignalized intersections, wider medians are preferable to narrower medians, unless signalization or suburban
 development is anticipated. At suburban intersections, the median should not be wider than necessary to accommodate the median leftturn
 treatment needed to serve current and future traffic volumes.
 

 Left Turn Lane Warrants and Design

 Leftturn lanes may provide added safety and efficiency at both unsignalized and signalized intersections. At signalized intersections, leftturn lane
 warrants are based on the magnitude of turning movements, accident experience, and general capacity relationships. The design values for
 leftturn approach tapers, turn bay tapers, and storage lane lengths are based on deceleration in the lane, storage in the lane, or a combination of
 both. At signalized intersections, the required length of storage bay is a function of signal cycle length.

 An example of a simple safety improvement is the addition of a painted leftturn lane at a rural intersection. This action not only reduces the
 potential for yearend accidents, but also provides drivers with a comfortable way to make a left turn. However, as is discussed in the Issues
 section of this chapter, the addition of a left turn lane can also affect resources along the side of the road or change the character of the road
 corridor. These are tradeoffs for designers to consider.

 RightTurn Lane Warrants and Design

 Depending on rightturn traffic volumes, accident history, highway speed, and availability of rightofway, rightturn lanes may be appropriate for
 some intersections. As with leftturn lanes, the taper and storage length design is based on deceleration, storage requirements, or both.

 Corner Radius Design

 The design for an intersection corner radius is based on the selection of a reasonable design vehicle for the specific location. Design vehicles
 can range from large (tractortrailer combinations) to small (private autos). There are a number of tradeoffs involved in this decision. Designing
 the corner radius for large vehicles requires more open intersections, and increases cost, and such intersections are more difficult to mark,
 signalize, and operate. In addition, the larger the dimensions of the radius, the greater the distance across the intersection from one side of the
 street to the other. This can make crossing the intersection much more difficult for pedestrians, particularly people who are elderly or have
 mobility impairments. Conversely, designing the corner radius for small vehicles can create operational problems should a significant number of
 larger vehicles have to use the intersection.

The actual radius or curb return design can be accomplished in one of four ways. Simple circular radius designs are the most commonly
 encountered design on lowspeed collector and local streets and in downtown areas. Alternative design methodologies include the use of
 symmetrical threecentered compound curves, asymmetrical threecentered compound curves, or simple radius curves with tapers. These
 designs better fit the paths of turning vehicles, thereby providing more efficient operations.

Traffic Islands

 Traffic islands, or channelization, represent one of the most important tools in the design of intersections. Islands can either be painted directly on
 the roadway surface or they may be raised. Painted or "flush" channelization may be used on highspeed highways to delineate turning lanes, in
 constrained locations, or where snow removal is a concern. Raised islands, with appropriate channels or curb ramps to accommodate users of
 wheelchairs or other related devices, should be used where the primary function of the island is to shield pedestrians, locate traffic control
 devices, or prohibit undesirable traffic movements.

 There are two basic types of traffic islandscorner islands that separate rightturning vehicles and median or divisional islands that separate
 opposing traffic flows on an intersection approach. Although islands in general provide a safe refuge for pedestrians, corner islands that
 separate rightturning vehicles in particular may make crossing intersections more difficult for pedestrians. These islands tend to widen the
 crossing distance. They can also make it more difficult for pedestrians to maneuver through the intersection, see oncoming traffic making right
 turns, and know where to cross, if the islands are not clearly delineated.

 Traffic Control Devices

 Traffic control devices are installed to designate rightofway at intersections and to provide for the safest and most efficient movement of all
 traffic, including pedestrians and bicyclists. The standards established in the latest edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for
 Streets and Highways (MUTCD), published by the FHWA, must be followed to determine proper intersection control.


  NEW INTERSECTION DESIGN CONCEPTS

 In recent years, a new intersection design concept has evolved to provide an alternative to the traditional T, fourleg, and multileg intersections.
 This design concept is called a roundabout.

 Modern roundabouts are increasingly being recognized as design alternatives to the use of traditional traffic signals for intersections for arterials.
 They improve both safety and efficiency for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as motor vehicles. So far, roundabouts have been built in such
 States as California, Colorado, Maryland, Nevada, Florida, and Vermont. These roundabouts are different from rotary or traffic circles that have
 been used in the United States for a number of years to give entering traffic the rightofway and encourage higher design speeds.

 The modern roundabout is designed to slow entering traffic and allow all the traffic to flow through the junction freely and safely. Unlike the older
 rotary design, entering vehicles must yield the rightofway to vehicles already in the circle. A deflection at the entrance forces vehicles to slow
 down. Traffic signals are not used, and pedestrians cross the streets at marked crosswalks.


Roundabout.

 The average delay at a roundabout is estimated to be less than half of that at a typical signalized intersection. Decreased delay may mean that
 fewer lanes are needed. Signalized intersections often require multiple approach lanes and multiple receiving lanes, which leads to a wider road.

 Perhaps the greatest advantages of roundabouts are their urban design and aesthetic aspects. Roundabouts eliminate the clutter of overhead
 wires and signal poles and allow signage to be reduced. They can be distinctive entry points into a community or mark a special place. The
 central island offers an opportunity for a variety of landscape designs, as well.

 ISSUES

 Each of the various components of intersection design can cause conflicts between the need for a safe and adequate design, on the one hand,
 and the need to minimize impact to the surrounding physical and human environments, on the other. In addition, the need to accommodate
 pedestrians and bicyclists can sometimes cause conflicts with the need to provide an efficient operating environment for vehicular traffic.

 Accommodating Pedestrians

 The safe and efficient accommodation of pedestrians at intersections is equally important as the provisions made for vehicles. Pedestrian
 movements should be provided for and their locations controlled to maximize safety and minimize conflicts with other traffic flows. Too often,
 pedestrians are a secondary consideration in the design of roadways, particularly at intersections in suburban areas.

 Solution

 For all but a few exceptions, pedestrian crosswalks should be located at intersections, should have appropriate curb ramps for accessibility, and
 should be clearly marked. Two parallel painted lines generally are not enough of a distinguishing marking. Often motorists confuse these lines
 with the stopping line and pull right up to the edge of the crosswalk. At a minimum, some type of striping or painting inside the crosswalk area is
 recommended to improve safety. Many cities and suburban areas have gone beyond this and added aesthetic treatments to their crosswalk
 designs, including use of the following:

      Distinguishing materials for crosswalks, such as brick, patterned concrete, and cobblestone
      Granite edging
      Colored pavement or solid painting of crosswalks.
 

Appropriate Corner Radius Design

 As mentioned earlier, there are many tradeoffs involved in the selection of the appropriate type and dimension of radius designs. Issues arise
 when all of the factors involved in the design decision are not considered. For example, if the primary intent of the intersection design is to move
 traffic through as quickly as possible, a higher corner radius would be selected. The dimensions of the corner radius send a message to drivers
 entering residential neighborhoods regarding the speed they can drive and should be designed with this in mind. Encouraging fast speeds
 around intersection corners into residential areas will undermine efforts to lower operating speeds within the neighborhoods themselves. In
 addition, faster speeds create an unsafe environment for pedestrians.

Addition of LeftTurn Lanes

 A common conflict arising from the use of channelization, or separation of traffic into definite paths of travel by traffic islands, medians, or
 pavement markings, is the addition of leftturn lanes. While there is no doubt that this can create a smoother flowing intersection, especially on
 twolane roads, the addition of a leftturn lane can significantly widen the width of the roadway, unless there is a median. This can change the
 character of an area, affect adjacent development or resources, and cause the road to be out of scale with its surroundings.

 Solution

 In cases where a leftturn lane is truly needed to improve safety and operational efficiency in a constricted rightofway, there may not be an easy
 solution to this issue. Sometimes the addition of leftturn lanes depends on new growth and development along the corridor. If the scenic, historic,
 or cultural resources are such that any additional widening would affect these resources, it may be that decisions made at the land use stage of
 planning should be reconsidered. Limiting development along the corridor will limit traffic volumes and the need for additional leftturn lanes.
 Another option is to lower traffic volumes on the roadway through other means, including creating or widening alternative routes.



Eyesore or gem: Brunel Roundabout 

I-BBC
BUILDING SITE
Five controversial buildings - should they stay or go? 
19 July 2007
 
The maxim of beauty being in the eye of the beholder is no more true than in people's estimations of modern buildings. To mark Architecture Week, the Magazine is taking some of Britain's most controversial buildings to task.

Of all the thousands of place-names in the UK, none have the quite the resonance and baggage of Slough, with its unkind poetic references.

The Berkshire town is now almost as famous for the Office, Ricky Gervais's sitcom, which offered glimpses of the town centre, particularly the Brunel Roundabout and nearby bus station.

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Now the roundabout, bus station and much of the surrounding area featured in the programme's title sequence are to be demolished as part of the £400m Heart of Slough project, which hopes to bring shops and new homes to a town centre long thought of as an urban planning dystopia.

Here Kevin Beresford, author and roundabouts enthusiast, expresses his dismay at the loss of an iconic site, while Slough councillor Dexter Smith says the town needs to slough off its ironic image as a great place for dismal buildings...
 



City wins a million to speed highway work
Whidbey News-Times
By Jessie Stensland
May 03 2006

The city of Oak Harbor took a step forward with plans to ease congestion and beautify the section of Highway 20 in the south end of town.
The Island County Regional Transportation Planning Organization awarded the city a $1 million grant this week to help fund a project to add lanes, three landscaped roundabouts and medians in the stretch of the highway between Beeksma Drive and Swantown Road.

The city is chipping in the required 13 percent match. In all, it’s enough money to fund engineering and environmental permitting for the project. Earlier this year, City Development Director Steve Powers estimated that the total cost, including construction, at $10.5 million.
 
“This is the first piece of the funding puzzle,” City Engineer Eric Johnston said in a press release. “It’s a big step in the right direction.”   The Island County RTPO had $1.76 million in federal transportation funds to divvy out for the 2006-2007 funding cycle. The organization provides funding for “regionally significant” transportation projects throughout the county.

The City Council chose to submit a grant request for the highway project instead of the municipal pier project because members felt the road project had a greater chance of winning funding. Apparently they were right.  Yet plans are complicated by the fact that the state Department of Transportation is responsible for highway improvements, but the state has limited dollars to spend on non-safety-related projects.

City staff has been working with — and urging along — DOT staff for years. Last year, the city and DOT completed a corridor study on the section of highway. The council unanimously approved the study, as well as a $300,000 contract for pre-design work.  According to a city press release, a central part of the highway improvement project is the creation of three landscaped roundabouts. “They will occupy space at the Beeksma Drive interchange, at Erie Street and at Swantown, where a roundabout will serve as a manicured welcome mat to the city,” the release states.
 
Traffic engineers at the state DOT tend to love roundabouts, which are intersections with one-way circulation around a center island, eliminating the need for a traffic signal. Studies have shown that they are safer, keeping traffic flowing more efficiently and are much less expensive than intersections with conventional traffic signals.  But roundabouts are different and new, which means they tend to be controversial until drivers get used to them.

Johnston said the city will likely hire a consultant for the design work later this summer. In the meantime, Oak Harbor officials will be looking for even more money to complete the rest of the project.  According to the city, the state transportation department will be working closely with the city to hunt for additional funds. City and DOT officials need to persuade elected officials in Olympia and Washington, D.C. that more dollars should flow to this vital stretch of highway that moves local traffic, tourists and freight at an existing volume of about 24,000 vehicles per day.

“This is a long-term project,” noted Johnston. “This is going to take several years before we get to the point where we’re ready to build.”




Roundabouts for all
Whidbey News-Times
By Eric Berto
Apr 23 2005

It could be like a junior high dance all over again.

People cautiously circle, not quite sure of what to do next. Finally, one person, then another gets up the courage to merge over to the other side. The result can be either a horrific accident or a smooth exit, finally reaching the goal.

If Oak Harbor and the Washington Department of Transportation install up to six roundabouts along Highway 20 between Swantown Avenue and Cabot Drive, it would do so over time, WSDOT Planning Engineer Eric Shjarback said at a Thursday evening open house.

“There’s a period of adjustment,” Oak Harbor resident Margaret Nichols said. “Sometimes it’s a long period of adjustment.”

Nichols said she has encountered roundabouts while on the east coast. She said that people need to be educated on the proper etiquette for navigating them.  A roundabout is a traffic control device that circles traffic in the same direction with multiple outlets to allow people to turn off.
Oak Harbor resident Jim Campbell had to learn how to drive in a roundabout while living for two years in Scotland. He said that the newness of them created a problem for him at first, but he was soon able to zoom about with the locals.

“There’s nothing worse than being stuck in the middle of a roundabout and not knowing what leg to go out,” Campbell said.  The roundabouts are being considered as a means to alleviate the growing traffic congestion problems in Oak Harbor. The study focuses on six intersection along Highway 20 between Swantown Avenue and Cabot Drive.

The city is spending $20,000 and the state is chipping in another $10,000 to find the best possible ways to ease the burden of traffic. Oak Harbor experiences between 17,000 and 20,000 vehicles traveling Highway 20 between Swantown and Cabot Avenue each day. WSDOT planners estimate that number will increase to at least 30,000 vehicles each day by the year 2030.

For the long term, the roundabouts ease congestion for a longer time than traffic signals, Shjarback said.  “If we are constrained to two lanes in each direction, the signals end up failing around the year 2020,” he said.  Roundabouts have moved their way to the top of the list for a variety of reasons, but tops on the list is safety, Shjarback said. By having people navigate an obstacle at slow speeds, people are more aware of their surroundings.

“The flow of the traffic is neat,” he said. “The traffic just kind of disappears.”  




How would road charging work?  

By Tom Symonds
BBC transport correspondent  
16 October 2006

Road charging is the government's radical proposal to cut congestion, and pilot schemes are being developed. So what would it be like? A BBC experiment intends to find out.

This would be the biggest single change to the way we drive since the invention of the motorway.

It could change the way we think about using our cars.   It would certainly mean more of us would turn to that much-loved conversation starter - "so which way did you come?"

Because when and where you drive would become decisions with financial implications.  Road charging puts a price, possibly per mile, on roads depending on how busy they are.  This means a single-lane A-road heading into a busy city during the rush-hour is expensive to use. A quiet country lane on a Sunday is much cheaper, probably free.

It is slightly different from a congestion charge, such as the system in London, which you pay if you enter a central area of a city, and then at a flat daily rate.  The government likes road charging because it makes drivers face up to the true cost of road congestion.

Currently the tax we pay on petrol reflects only how far we have driven, not when and where.  Under one option the government is looking at, fuel duties and the tax disc would be abolished, to be replaced by universal road charges.  If prices are high enough it should encourage drivers not to travel unless they have to - and to avoid busy times.

The result, according to supporters of charging, is the roads will be quieter and those of us prepared to pay will have easier journeys.

Big questions

Ministers are so keen they are even hoping to introduce wider powers to introduce charges for driving in the next session of parliament.  It is quite simply THE big idea for clearing UK jams.  But it is a radical, controversial idea with many unanswered questions. How do you collect the money? How much will we end up paying? And most of all, will it work?

So to answer some of these questions, the BBC decided to set up its own small charging system. We're calling it Pay As You Drive.
 
Motorway driving could be pricey

We have chosen four different drivers in the Midlands, and we have had satellite tracking equipment fitted in their cars.  For a month they will go about their normal motoring lives, but every minute we will keep a record of where they have been.

The prices have been set by Professor Stephen Glaister, the country's top transport economist.  He has used a computer model based on government figures, to work out how much to charge to reflect the delays, accidents and pollution caused by traffic congestion.

15-year countdown

At the end of the month we will send our motorists their Pay As You Drive bill. How much will they spend in a month?  The results could be a surprise to anyone who drives on the UK's jam-packed roads.

Road charging of the sort we are trying out, using GPS satellite tracking, is unlikely to be introduced for at least 15 years.  The technology basically works. But it would require millions of drivers to have tracking units fitted in their cars.

This would probably be made voluntary, with drivers encouraged to join the scheme through financial incentives - ie, lower charges than those levied on drivers without "boxes".

In 15 years' time, automatic numberplate recognition cameras are likely to be in common use on the roads.  They can easily identify drivers who are using their cars without sending back tracking information.

But within five years it is likely a second area of the country, such as Birmingham, will introduce a congestion charge.

Privacy

This would probably use more advanced technology than London and would act as a "pathfinder" road charge for a national scheme.  The real barrier for any government wanting to introduce charges is the political acceptability of road charging.  Drivers will have to be convinced their money will buy easier journeys, that their privacy isn't going to be breached, and above all, that the scheme is fair.

All that is much easier said than done.


Minister to favour road charging 
The new Transport Secretary takes on a daunting department
10 May 2006

New Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander has announced a £10m fund for the development of nationwide road charging schemes.
He hopes new technology will allow drivers to be charged by the mile.

Mr Alexander, promoted in last week's reshuffle, used a speech to outline how he intends to improve UK infrastructure with minimum environmental impact.  His predecessor at the department, Alistair Darling, announced several pilot road charging schemes.

'Time to face facts'

Cambridge, Durham, Bristol, Bath, Greater Manchester, Shrewsbury, Tyne and Wear and the West Midlands were among the authorities developing road charging proposals.

Conservative transport spokesman Chris Grayling said: "Yet again we have a secretary of state whose only solution to our transport problems seems to be a road pricing system which couldn't be introduced for a decade. 

"It's time ministers realised that we need action now to improve transport and not vague ideas for the distant future. They could start by keeping some of the transport promises they've made in the last few years and then quietly dropped."

Lib Dem spokesman Alistair Carmichael meanwhile said the £10m was "simply the first slice of the £18m" promised by Mr Alexander's predecessor in July last year.

Mr Carmichael backed road-user pricing as key to cutting down on congestion and therefore pollution but went on to ask what had happened to a "further £200m a year promised from the Transport Innovation Fund".

"The government has always talked a good game on road-user pricing, but the time has come for them to put their money where their mouth is," he said.

A spokesman from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport welcomed Mr Alexander's commitment to road pricing adding there was "no other long term solution to congestion".

Mr Alexander said road pricing was one of several measures that had been looked at to tackle congestion.

He said that it was time to face "certain basic facts" that as the nation's prosperity improved, people would want to travel more and to travel further.

"And as we travel more, because we live on a crowded island, congestion is set to grow, so if we do nothing we simply face eternal gridlock," he told BBC News.  The debate now was not so much about "why road pricing?", but "how it would be implemented", and the prize for motorists would be "better value out of the road network".

Investment in road capacity would continue where it was justified, Mr Alexander insisted.

Air travel

And he said speed cameras had a role to play, adding: "I've seen it as a driver myself, there is absolutely no doubt where you have cameras, for example where there are tight bends in the road, it makes sense to slow drivers down."

Mr Alexander was in York on Wednesday, where he was opening a new bus service operated by transport giant First.

He also announced the extension of the Oyster smartcard scheme in London, which will see the cards being accepted in the capital's mainline stations.

Earlier, during a BBC Radio 4 Today programme interview, he said that while he did not want to prevent people enjoying the benefits of cheap air travel, he was concerned about the environmental impact.

"This is not simply a domestic problem, this is a challenge we need to meet internationally," he said.

"We believe the right way to address those environmental concerns is to bring aircraft within the emissions trading scheme we are trying to get established at the European Union."