A solution in search of a problem

By Meg Olson

The Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) is reviewing four alternatives the county is proposing to address traffic concerns at two local intersections.

The report from county engineers came in response to a PRCAC request that they look at the feasibility of traffic calming options at the Tyee Drive and Benson Road intersection and the Marine Drive and Gulf Road intersection.

In their analysis, county engineer Doug Burghart said they first evaluated whether the intersections met the conditions that would warrant a traffic circle or a traffic light, as outlined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices: traffic volume, pedestrian volume, crash history, traffic flow and other factors. They did not, but engineers went ahead and looked at what the cost of those options would be, and the potential impact on safety. They also looked at some more simple solutions to address safety concerns.

The first alternative they considered was a compact roundabout with no landscaping that would fit in the existing pavement limits and accommodate some trucks, while others would have to drive over the “traversable” island. “This is the primary downside to this type of roundabout,” the report stated. The cost of the roundabout is estimated between $125,000 and $200,000.

Replacing a stop-sign-controlled intersection with this type of roundabout has been found to reduce crashes by 35 percent. There has been one minor collision at the considered intersections since 2011.

The second alternative, a full-sized single-lane roundabout, is estimated to cost $2.5 million, and would be safer than the first alternative as it could accommodate all car and truck configurations. As the central island would be large enough for landscaping, it could “serve as a pleasing gateway,” the report stated. This option would require the acquisition of right-of-way.

The third option considered was to signalize the intersection and include left turn lanes, which would also come with a $2.5 million price tag, as it would also require right-of-way acquisition. Engineers considered this option the least valuable in terms of increasing safety, given the very low number of accidents at these intersections, and concluded “adding a signal could potentially decrease the safety of the intersection.”

The last option was to leave the intersections as they are but add “minor safety improvements,” such as a solar-powered LED highlighted stop sign and thermoplastic rumble strips. The cost of these improvements was estimated at $10,000 per intersection. With the lack of accidents at the intersections under consideration
engineers concluded “it makes sense not to make any significant changes to these intersections.”

The engineers recommended this alternative as the most cost effective option and the one that made the most sense given the safety challenges at these locations.

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