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Archive for the ‘highways’ Category

Bank of KDOT

Gov. Sam Brownback is now having to use KDOT highway funds to keep Kansas solvent:

In order to keep funding its government despite dramatically decreased tax revenue, the Legislature has flipped all its piggy banks. One of them is the Kansas Department of Transportation—or what sarcastic Kansans now call “the Bank of KDOT,” for the stupendous quantity of money that has been diverted from its coffers to the Kansas general fund and state agencies.

Kneecapping the agency that builds roads isn’t just a great metaphor for Gov. Sam Brownback’s tenure. Like the cut to the state’s university funding, this damage will be most keenly felt years from now, when deferred maintenance and high debt loads take their toll. An ex-head of the Kansas Turnpike Authority said in December that the practice had created a “long-term disaster for our state highways.”

On Wednesday, Brownback announced that Mike King, the secretary of KDOT, would be resigning this month. King, who was appointed in 2012, has presided over a rather unusual period in Topeka finance.

Since 2011, according to the Kansas City Star, the state has diverted more than $1 billion in “extraordinary” transfers from KDOT. If you include “routine” transfers, from 2011 through the 2017 budget year the total diversion from the Bank of KDOT will amount to more than $2 billion.

There may be a silver lining to this fiasco if it stimulates debate over how much road infrastructure Kansas requires. Kansas, I was stunned to learn, has the nation’s 4th largest road network! Hopefully, Brownback will be successful in permanently cutting back the KDOT budget.

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Pennsylvania DOT didn’t want the pesky pedestrians getting in the way of the cars, so they removed three traffic signals:

Stephanie Foman had just gotten off the bus at her regular stop on Haverford Avenue, looked up, and noticed there was no longer a light at Sherwood Avenue in Overbrook Park. When she tried to cross the street, she said: “I almost got hit. I had to stand in the middle of the road, waving my arms to get the cars to stop.”

The signals were removed as part of a traffic “improvement” plan for Haverford Ave. PennDOT says the “improved” intersections don’t meet warrants for a signal:

“We knew that PennDOT said they wanted to improve the flow of traffic,” town watch president Darryl Day said. “But we didn’t think they were going to take down those traffic lights and replace them with those little yellow blinking lights they call beacons.”

PennDOT spokesman Richard Kirkpatrick said the traffic project is federally funded and requires all upgraded traffic signals along Haverford be “warranted as part of the design review process.” He said the city Streets Department did an analysis that showed the three intersections did not meet standards for lights.

 

You have to admire the circular logic. PennDOT says the signals are slowing down traffic too much on the arterial. PennDOT also says there is not enough cross traffic to justify a signal. Both conditions can’t be true.

 

penndot_light

 

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Fremont Public Works informs me that there are no plans to remove bike lanes at the Grimmer/Blacow intersection:

The project will extend the bike lanes to the intersection crosswalk lines and install new bike detection loops and bike detection legends at all approaches.

While certainly good news, this does not change the fact that a Safe-Routes-to-School grant was used mainly for an automobile LOS improvement project.

The primary safety issue at the intersection isn’t the right-turn slip lane, but the ludicrously high traffic speeds. Blacow and Grimmer were both designed to encourage dangerous speeding. Just ask Leon and Marilyn Goheen, whose property borders Grimmer Blvd. On eight separate occasions, cars have gone flying off “dead man’s curve” and landed in their back yard.

If you want to make Grimmer Blvd safer for students, bulb-outs aren’t going to cut it. And adding automobile capacity makes it worse.

 

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You don’t hear about it much, but the Highway Capacity Manual does have a definition for pedestrian LOS:

Pedestrian LOS is determined based on the average delay per pedestrian (i.e., wait time). Pedestrian delay is calculated using two parameters: cycle length and effective green time for pedestrians. The HCM 2000 recommends estimating effective green time for pedestrians by taking the walk interval and adding 4 seconds of the flashing DON’T WALK interval to account for pedestrians who depart the curb after the start of flashing DON’T WALK. The equation for calculating pedestrian delay based on equation 18-5 of the HCM 2000:

The average pedestrian delay, in seconds, equals 0.5 times the square of the difference of cycle length minus effective green time for pedestrians, both in seconds, all divided by the cycle length.
Where: dp = average pedestrian delay (s)
C = cycle length (s)
g = effective green time for pedestrians (s)

Pedestrian LOS thresholds at signalized intersections.

LOS

Pedestrian Delay (sec/ped)

Likelihood of Noncompliance

A

< 10

Low

B

≥ 10-20

 

C

> 20-30

Moderate

D

> 30-40

 

E

> 40-60

High

F

> 60

Very High

Using this metric, one can predict the amount of jaywalking. Intersections with “A” or “B” pedestrian LOS will have a high degree of compliance. Intersections with “C” or “D” LOS will have a moderate amount of jaywalking. Intersections with “E” or “F” LOS, well, can expect to have lots of jaywalking.

Because I don’t have a social life, I spent the better part of last evening with a stopwatch timing the signalized intersections and observing pedestrians in my Berkeley neighborhood. Supposedly, this is a pedestrian-friendly city and yet pedestrian LOS were all within the “C” and “D” range — meaning one can expect a moderate amount of noncompliance. Jaywalking is fairly common, so the pedestrian LOS chart models reality pretty well.

As in most cities, the pedestrian signals in my neighborhood were upgraded to the beg-button type. Pedestrians must press a button, then wait (as long as a full cycle) to get the walk light. What if instead these beg-buttons were Pedestrian Priority buttons? The walk light would come much sooner, and LOS would move into the A” or “B” range. There would be less jaywalking, and a much improved pedestrian experience.

claremont

The Claremont/62nd intersection has pedestrian LOS of “E”. Everyone jaywalks here.

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When San Francisco removed the Embarcadero and Central freeways, it helped launch a property boom that made the city’s real estate some of the most valuable in the country. Across the Bay, Oakland is seeing a similar renaissance with the removal of Lake Merritt’s 12th Street Viaduct and the Cypress freeway relocation. Oakland (yes Oakland) has now passed San Jose to become the nation’s 4th hottest rental market. There is now talk in Oakland of removing I980 as well.

Inner-city highway removal has been so successful, you have to wonder why many cities cling to their outdated design. A really awful example of this backwards thinking can be found in Sacramento with the Capital City freeway:

It’s the Sacramento region’s worst freeway bottleneck, by far. Every day, traffic comes to a standstill on the Capital City Freeway near the American River. The snarls are even worse some Saturdays.

Now, after years of debating what to do, state and local leaders say they’ve reached a resolution: It’s time to drop the small-town mindset and go for a big fix.

Caltrans has begun laying the groundwork for a $700 million freeway widening from midtown to the junction with Interstate 80. That includes widening the American River bridge to add a new multi-use lane in each direction, as well as building wider shoulders for stalled cars to pull over, a separate lane on the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, and other improvements. The proposed project area is 8 miles long.

The questions: Where will the money come from, and how long will it take to get done?

Caltrans officials say the project is so big and the funding sources so uncertain that it may not happen for a decade. That timeline is typical for major transportation projects in California.

But the region’s population is expected to grow in that time, including new housing adjacent to the Capital City Freeway at McKinley Village, putting more pressure on an already failing freeway. That section of the Capital City Freeway accounts for one-third of the Sacramento Valley’s freeway delays, which state highway data pegs at 3 million wasted hours.

Some history: The Capital City freeway formed the original I80 alignment through Sacramento. It is one of those notorious 1960’s projects, which blasted highways through the middle of cities. Because it did not meet modern interstate standards, it was replaced by a new I80 beltway that went through north Sacramento. At that point, the Capital City freeway had largely outlived its original purpose — and yet the ugly elevated structure has remained.

Underneath the elevated structure, the old street grid remains. The neighborhood retains some of the classic craftsman houses. There is now light rail and a respectable amount of pedestrian activity from the nearby government office buildings.

Replacing the freeway with an at-grade boulevard would transform the neighborhood. And it would move the car traffic more efficiently. That is a much better outcome than spending $700 million and 10 years, just to make traffic worse.

sacr2

Caltrans headquarters on the left, Capital City freeway on the right. Streetcar tracks running under and across the highway.

sac_aerial

Aerial view

sac_widen_map

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When a celebrity crashes a plane, or is rear-ended by a truck, the NTSB will make a thorough investigation. But for the thousands of pedestrians and cyclists killed and injured each year, the NTSB has no interest in researching the cause of the collision.

A review of this year’s archive of accident recommendations shows the NTSB made dozens of recommendations for aviation, railroads, pipelines, and highways. But there is nothing related to non-motorized road users.

In fact, the last time the NTSB looked at a bike or ped issue was way back in the year 1972. Apparently, the NTSB believes the US has the most perfect infrastructure for bikes and peds.

When Congress created the NTSB, the purpose was to provide outside, independent guidance to transport planners. And since traffic engineers have such a huge blind spot for bikes and peds, one would think that a Vision-Zero policy would be the top high priority for the NTSB. Unfortunately, there is nobody at the agency, either at the staff or Board level, that seems to have any awareness of the issue.

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rob_fordToronto has two systems of justice. One for normal folk, and another for crack-smoking drunk-driving Mayors:

Toronto police officers helped Rob Ford on “multiple occasions” after stopping his vehicle while he was still mayor, rather than charge him with driving impaired, his former chief of staff says.

The allegation emerged Saturday in an excerpt from a soon to-be-released book by Mark Towhey titled Mayor Rob Ford: Uncontrollable. “Two senior members of the Toronto Police Service had told me officers had pulled over the mayor’s car late at night on multiple occasions and driven him home rather than charging him for driving under the influence.”

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