Saturday, April 27, 2013
A 2011 survey of citizens made it clear — improving Rose Street should be the city of Walla Walla’s top road priority. And that is what is being done.
As we began planning this project, we asked how this street would best serve the community — both today and in years to come — and concluded the addition of a new stoplight at 13th Avenue (near the railroad crossing) and the resurfacing of Rose Street with a more durable surface were essential.
When we learned that accidents on the street were 50 percent higher than the state average for equivalent roads, we also felt it imperative to look at whether the lane configurations were impacting safety.
Following are answers to some of the most common questions about this project.
Why three lanes instead of four?
Safety is the prime reason.
By reconfiguring the road from four lanes to three, Walla Walla would have a newly surfaced road — and one that is safer and provides easier access to businesses. Based on national studies of similar roads, we could experience more than a 50 percent reduction in collisions on Rose Street.
This could also prevent investing in traffic revisions due to future traffic increases — if, for example, the mall site were to be redeveloped.
A three-year accident study (2009-2011) shows 48 accidents on Rose Street. This is roughly 50 percent higher than the statewide average for similar roadways.
Many of these accidents are rear-end collisions and sideswipes that are typically reduced by changing to three-lanes.
The most recent example was on April 9, when a Walla Walla Police Department motorcycle officer was struck by a car entering Rose Street from 12th Avenue.
Three-lane configurations improve visibility at intersections. Conflict points — places where vehicles can cross each other’s paths — are reduced by nearly 50 percent.
The dedicated center turn-lane helps reduce rear-end collisions. Numerous studies on this have been conducted for the past 40 years.
These indicate consistent reductions in overall accident rates for similar projects — from 10 percent to more than 60 percent.
Moving the travel lanes farther away from the curb increases comfort for pedestrians and reduces the chance of motorists hitting obstructions beyond the curbs.
Average speeds will be closer to the posted speed limits. Currently most Rose Street drivers travel 6 to 11 mph over the speed limit. Pedestrian crossing safety is improved by allowing pedestrians to focus their attention on fewer lanes.
Will three lanes accommodate the heavy traffic?
Yes, a three-lane road can handle more than twice the current traffic on Rose Street, up to 24,000 vehicles per day.
The current traffic volumes are about 10,000 vehicles per day.
Accounting for redevelopment of the mall and future growth, traffic volumes could be as high as 14,500 a day by the year 2033 — still well below the capacity of a three-lane roadway.
Past studies have shown that the difference in capacity between three- and four-lane roadways is minimal until traffic volumes reach 20,000 vehicles a day.
The wider section of Rose Street near the former mall site will still have more than three lanes.
Will the 50 large giant trees all be removed?
Only a few trees have to be removed. Residents along the north side of Rose Street have identified visibility concerns caused by some of the trees.
These concerns have been investigated and we found that sight distances do not meet established standards at most of the intersections.
We want to preserve as many of the 50 large sycamore trees as possible and are looking at removing as few as two and up to a maximum of 10 trees. The final decision will be made based on improving visibility.
Will I have to wait behind Valley Transit buses?
The new configuration will allow for easy navigation around buses. With the six-foot bike lane (shoulder area) buses can pull far enough out of the way of traffic at their stops to allow drivers to use the center turn-lane to pass. This is legal and is done in many other cities without incident.
Most drivers will not need to drive around a stopped bus when traveling on this section of Rose. The frequency of the route through this corridor is every half-hour at most, and buses do not pull over at every stop — only those requested by users.
Bus pullout areas make it more difficult for buses to re-enter the traffic flow. Valley Transit officials have said they do not support bus pullouts because of this.
The one exception being considered is near the 13th Avenue intersection. A pullout area there might be included to better facilitate the movement of traffic while accommodating the railroad crossing, pedestrian crossings and the new traffic signal.
In coordination with Valley Transit, some other bus stop locations may be adjusted slightly to reduce conflicts.
Why are bike lanes being added to Rose Street?
Bike lanes are being added because a large shoulder area will remain after restriping.
Again, it is a safety concern. The shoulders will accommodate bus stops and make it easier for large trucks to make right turns at driveways and intersections without swerving into adjacent travel lanes as they do now.
And because there will be shoulder area left over it made sense to use it as a bike lane.
Upgrading Rose Street has been a citizen-driven priority. We have used data and careful analysis — combined with modern road design practices — to create a plan that will provide a cost-effective, more durable and easier-to-maintain surface that will improve safety and allow for efficient flow of traffic.
Our goal has been to weigh every aspect of the decision — from traffic flow and cost to maintenanc cost to safety — and recommend solutions that will best serve the community today and in the future.
As always, we welcome feedback from residents.
More information is available on the Internet at ci.walla-walla.wa.us or by contacting the Rose Street project manager Monte Puymon at firstname.lastname@example.org or (509) 527-4537