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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
cameras to catch violators or cash?
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.
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.
grade intersections are
one of the most critical and most complicated elements in highway
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:
the severity of potential conflicts between motor vehicles, buses,
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
is the case with other aspects
of the highway design process, designers can use a wide range of
design elements in
combination to provide both operational quality and safety. These include:
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
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
alinement before and through
an intersection must promote driver awareness, operate well under
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.
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:
opposing traffic flows
Providing storage for vehicles making left and Uturns and vehicles crossing traffic and shielding pedestrians
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.
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.
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
lanes may provide
added safety and efficiency at both unsignalized and signalized
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.
example of a simple safety
improvement is the addition of a painted leftturn lane at a rural
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
on rightturn traffic
volumes, accident history, highway speed, and availability of
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
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.
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.
islands, or channelization,
represent one of the most important tools in the design of
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.
are two basic types of
traffic islandscorner islands that separate rightturning vehicles and
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
control devices are
installed to designate rightofway at intersections and to provide for
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
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.
roundabouts are increasingly
being recognized as design alternatives to the use of traditional
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.
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.
average delay at a roundabout
is estimated to be less than half of that at a typical signalized
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.
the greatest advantages
of roundabouts are their urban design and aesthetic aspects.
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.
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.
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.
all but a few exceptions,
pedestrian crosswalks should be located at intersections, should have
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:
materials for crosswalks, such as brick, patterned concrete, and
Colored pavement or solid painting of crosswalks.
Appropriate Corner Radius Design
mentioned earlier, there
are many tradeoffs involved in the selection of the appropriate type
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
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.
cases where a leftturn lane
is truly needed to improve safety and operational efficiency in a
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.
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.”
said she has encountered
roundabouts while on the east coast. She said that people need to be
on the proper etiquette for navigating them. A roundabout is a
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.”