Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Moore and La Canada Roundabout or Traffic Light: Why The Angst? Why Now?

Study: No change in traffic control is warranted today
In November 2017, the town received an independent study on whether a traffic control change is warranted at the intersection of Moore Rd and La Canada.

The study concluded that there was no need for a change under existing (April 2017) conditions. The conclusion was based on an analysis of five "warrant" factors, only two of which were met.

Jacobs believes that we need to do something now.
Town Manager Mary Jocobs uses this intersection daily. She does not agree that no traffic control is warranted today. At the recent town forum on the subject she stated: "The four way stop does not work and we've got to fix it. And so, we now are faced with two choices... We will be moving forward with one of the choices as soon as we finish this process." (Source: Town Forum of 12/3/18).

Maybe a problem by 2027
The study discussed "future traffic conditions" potentially caused by:
  • A school (Leman Academy) being built on LaCanada (1,320 anticipated students). This is south of the intersection. It is now in operation. 
  • A school (Amphi STEM) being built (500 anticipated students) a mile east of the intersection on Moore Road. It is now in operation.
  • A potential build-out of a 75 home subdivision (Eagle Summit). This is located about a mile east of the intersection off of Moore Rd.
  • A population growth rate of about 1%.
"The combination of this growth rate and the above mentioned developments results in overall [annual] growth rate of 4% [traffic] during peak periods." (Study p. 21)
The study considered whether a change in traffic control was warranted by 2027. At that time, the study concluded, conditions were met for a traffic control change. The study concluded that a "roundabout" was the best solution because it resulted in the lowest crash frequency per year (Study p. 24).

Crash projections are very low. The projection for 2027 was about 1 crash every 2 years if a roundabout were installed. A traffic signal, according to the study, would incur 2 crashes per year. The study also states that crashes in roundabouts are less severe than crashes at traffic light controlled intersections. The study recommended that a roundabout be installed to mitigate 2027 traffic conditions.

Why the angst?
The town commissioned an independent study. The town conducted public meetings. The town conducted an online vote.

All indications point to a "roundabout" as a preferred solution.

However, public support is split. About half of the 1,646 votes cast in  the online vote favored a roundabout over a traffic light. 42 phone and email responses slightly favored a traffic light.

Add to this the fact that the study was done before Leman and STEM were open. So, it does not reflect the current situation. The peak time traffic situation created by the now operating Leman School is significant.
At the forum, the head of the Leman school voiced a preference for a traffic light solution. Leman does not have busses to transport the children. They have a huge traffic jam problem with dropping off and picking up, and they will have 1,200 students by 2021. You can watch her comments here.
Other concerns voiced at forums and online regarding a roundabout are:
  • People don't know how to use a roundabout
  • It's bad for pedestrian use, especially for young children
  • Roundabouts don't work well during peak periods
  • Traffic will get worse if the town annexes and rezones for cluster homes the state lands located a mile to the west of the intersection
  • People might drive through the roundabout at night
  • It takes longer to put in a roundabout.
Some also point to the roundabout at Northern Ave and Hardy, saying that it does not work at peak times and that there is no pedestrian traffic to worry about.  Not all agree that this is the case, however.

Very expensive either way
The town has estimated that the installation cost of a traffic light system at this intersection is about $700,000. The estimate to install the roundabout is $1,000,000.  (Watch video on cost and timing) We know that a traffic light is much more expensive to operate and maintain. The benefit of saving on these costs may well outweigh the cost of installation. Either way, we are likely to see huge spending. Thus, the town should also consider both one time and ongoing cost.

Why now?
We think there is a much more fundamental question to be asked. That is: When should traffic control be changed at this intersection? We ask because the study focused nine years from now. It does not reflect current conditions. Most certainly it needs to be updated.

We ask because, if we don't really need to do anything until, say 2023, why do it now? Why not wait? See what traffic results based on actual changes? Wait to see what happens with the state lands annexation? Maybe, by then, the town will come up with ways to finance the traffic control change that are more creative than simply taking money from the general or highway fund.

Waiting a bit, updating the study for current conditions, and creating both a safety and a cost fact-based analysis of the situation might, indeed, take the angst out of the process. It could result in a solution that all can appreciate.