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Letter To The Editor: Safety Requires Signals

on April 6, 2016 - 12:08pm
Los Alamos

As I listened to Tuesday night’s presentation at the county council meeting regarding roundabouts and the citizen comments, another "only in Los Alamos" moment, I wondered who represented those citizens who will continue to be adversely affected by the traffic on East Road. 

Those are the families who live on Arroyo Lane or adjoining the airport and the families who swim at East Park Pool. From the very first meeting in 2007 many stressed the importance of ensuring the safety of those families. Time and again the County staff and NMDOT promised that their safety would be factored in to the design. Has that really happened?

Consider the families who have to turn left across eastbound traffic when leaving the pool in the afternoon. Consider the families who live off Arroyo Lane and want to cross the road to take their children to East Park to play. Consider the families who for some reason have to turn across the am or pm rush hour traffic when it is at its heaviest.

Not one Councilor spoke up about the safety of those not represented by anyone at the meeting. They were invisible. The roundabout project is a benefit only to those who commute to and from Los Alamos.  It benefits no one else.

Those who live west of the proposed roundabout have no safety concerns except if they swim at East Park Pool.  They have no skin in this game.

None of what was discussed impacts them. Why should anyone realistically compare the possible future roundabout to the functionally useless roundabouts in Santa Fe? Why should anyone realistically
compare the future roundabout to the Diamond Drive roundabout? Why should anyone realistically compare the future roundabout to roundabouts in Golden, San Diego or Sedona, all of which have documented problems that local communities are trying to address? 

Where were the engineers who should understand that roundabouts function well only if traffic from all four directions is balanced? In other words roundabouts do a great job at intersections where there are 4-way stops.

Does the Council believe that it represents only those who are not impacted at all? Does the Council believe that County staff and NMDOT have done their best to ensure the safety of the invisible? If the
Council and the County staff believe that the safety of those families has been adequately considered in the design, then why didn't they say so at the meeting?

Clearly the current Council does not really know what some of the motivating factors were when the discussions about the redesign of East Road began. There is no history of this project besides what a few
County staff could pull out of the files.  If anyone on the Council took a field trip late in the afternoon, he or she should be aware of how intimidating it is to slow down to make a right turn into Arroyo Lane or the East Park Pool parking lot with eastbound traffic trying to travel at 35 mph. Trying to turn left across that traffic is even more hazardous. Imagine doing that with several children in the car after fun at the pool.

The real issue is how to make safe breaks in the traffic to allow safe turns  and safe crossings. A roundabout will not accomplish that.

Signals cause traffic breaks. Safety requires signals.