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  Comments (1) Total Sunday Apr. 20, 2014
 
Road Ragin’
Closing Range
New Year’s always brings guilty thoughts of resolutions we can’t keep. This time, I’m trying reverse psychology: I resolve to get older, uglier and meaner.

Of course, all of us have resolutions we’d like others to make, and I’m no exception. Here’s a suggested resolution for our traffic engineering people: Please, think things through before you build them.

First off, I understand highway engineering has a political component. Hey, I lived in Whitefish, where it took over 10 years to get a left-turn arrow at Second and Central, and/or Wisconsin and Central. Thank God for Karrow Avenue.

Thanks to politics, some dumb decisions can’t be helped – the Willow Glen east side bypass, with a cut-off from Snappy’s to the barn, was a great idea, cheaper and smarter than the west-side bypass. Well, the usual NIMBY’s trashed that.

But when the political fertilizer stops flying, and the infrastructure gets built, it should be built right, and operated right. Here’s my greatest hits:

Reserve and 93
Why in tarnation didn’t the roadies leave the two-lane left turn on West Reserve and 93? The bypass is nowhere near complete, and there remains substantial traffic demand for left turns. Now, our scenario is a confused local sitting in the left “straight” lane, while the tourist in the “turn” lane of course tries to make an illegal left turn, dive-bombing into the right southbound 93 lane. Crunch!

So, until the bypass is complete and Reserve gets four lanes, can we have the old setup, please? Should be easy to fix this spring – the new paint is already flaked off, ya know.

Treeline Road and 93
I think everyone in the Flathead has made the jump across 93 between Home Depot and Lowes. Now, why didn’t the engineers grade for a FLAT approach apron for a couple of car-lengths – rather than a slope that guarantees gridlock each time it snows? But what really galls me about Treeline is making a left turn.

What was so impossible about lining up the opposing left-turn lanes so motorists can clearly see approaching traffic – a matter of maybe four feet? What if drivers could line up straight, safely able to see what the heck is coming at them? Oh no, and it’s set in concrete.

Hutton/Costco Clustermuck
This is Main and Idaho all over again, and will get worse. With the Hutton Ranch back way complete, the left turn load at the Clustermuck has passed the tipping point, often jamming traffic clear back to Meridian. Not helping is that left turns to Costco call for either a short right at McDonald’s or a longer right into Costco. Which is it? If you make a legal left to Costco, the driver behind you is now in your blind spot – so making an illegal turn is actually safer. Rotten design, pure and simple.

Going to Costco from town? Try skipping the turn lane at the Clustermuck and use the left turn at Famous Dave’s. You can thank me later.

Hutton Ranch at Reserve
Okay, let’s say you craftily bailed from the Clustermuck Taillight Derby at Hutton for a “shortcut” to Reserve and La Salle. You stewed at the WalMart red light (always red for some reason), then did the right/left/right shooby-doo-wop at Nowhere Traffic Calming Circle (or a Mario Andretti, your call). You hit the light at Reserve (red, of course) for a right turn east and what do you see? Oncoming cars? Of course not, they’re blocked from view by a humongous controller box. Way to go, engineers!

Amazing … I’ve burned up most of my column just on one part of town, and I haven’t even got to the matter of timing traffic lights, especially yellows.

Even more amazing: Taxpayers contributed millions upon millions of dollars on all this concrete, glass, wire and steel, which we are all stuck with for the rest of our lives.

In each case here, five minutes of foresight at the drafting table would have minimized what are now practically permanent impediments to smooth flow and traffic safety. Were I an engineer, I’d be embarrassed. As a humble citizen, well, I’m not impressed.
 
On 01-29-14, Craig moore commented....
Dave, why did you leave fatter off your resolution list?  ;>) Now you do realize that most of these traffic revisions are meant to punish shoppers at the big box stores, Cabela’s, Wal Mart, and Costco so that when they get around to redeveloping downtown Kali, they will…
 
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