Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Council (Finally) Notices that Trinity Drive Is A Problem

In the 10 September Los Alamos Monitor, we see Citizens' petition prompts action on 20th and Trinity.  

"...A citizen’s petition submitted by Doris Roberts, owner of All Individual First, has prompted action on getting either a signalized intersection or a HAWK (High Intensity Activated Crosswalk) signal at the corner of 20th Street and Trinity Drive...."

Actually it has long been obvious that the County has been enthusiastically developing destinations on the South side of Trinity (NM-502, owned by the State DoT). In the last decade, we have seen more housing developed, a Laboratory technical area, a satellite of St. Christus Hospital, small businesses, and Smith's Marketplace all added to what was already there. Indeed, the county and LA schools have been eager to cash in on the newly liberated turf that was previously tied down with dilapidated school buildings, thus increasing local public revenues (i.e., cutting down on financial leakage off The Hill) and making BombTown a more balanced place to live. Once TA-21 is cleaned up, we can expect yet more development--hopefully well thought through.

But as anyone who followed the ongoing Trinity Corridor discussion knows, Trinity Drive continues to be a somewhat schizophrenic road. It is both a wide, fast highway carrying commuters and residents on and off the hill and is increasingly a main street in a business district. There are inadequate pedestrian amenities along much of the road, with most of what do exist concentrated on the segment between Smiths Marketplace and 20th Street. Today, I clocked 0.7 miles between the last traffic light at Oppenheimer and the Trinity/Diamond intersection. People wanting to cross at Ashley Pond do so at their own risk. Likewise, there are other long gaps between areas where one can safely cross the street with any street controls. So more examples like the Hawk system are definitely needed, as Trinity Drive has many of the attributes of pedestrian-unfriendly suburban development.

Several years ago when I was Chair of the Transportation Board, I made sure we put into the T Board work plan that the T Board should be working with Planning and Zoning and other agencies to ensure that our road designs are examined to ensure they go hand in hand with surrounding development. Indeed, the whole point of the Designs for Streets and Rights of Way (itself a very contentious product that saw its original drafting committee disbanded before the T Board finally produced product that Council adopted) was to ensure we got the roads to safely support the kinds of activity that surrounding development would create. Sadly, the latest version of the Work Plan had a lot of this language deleted by the Council subcommittee that examines work plans. But on second thought, I shouldn't despair, since even better than language in a work plan is language we have in county government, to wit, from the Designs for Streets and Rights of Way! Here, from the Resolution as passed by Council:

1.1 Street and right of way design and land use decisions shall be mutually reinforcing, to create effective synergy between streets and rights-of-way and land use decisions.

So while I am happy to see Council being prompted to action, as in 7-0 advising Staff to work with the DOT, did we really need a petition to Council to do what our own policy already states in plain language? Did Council want political affirmation from the public? Heck, all one has to do is look at the damn street and the problem is obvious. Pardon my frustration, but we shouldn't still be dicking around with this issue. The last thing we need is to let a Cerrillos Road creep into our midst because we don't put planning ahead of execution.

I'm not all that grumpy at Council, actually, because this has long been a topic of a political nature, as the "Downtown Streets Committee" discovered. More important than the local context, historically, is that the deck has long been stacked against pedestrian needs, especially when a highway enters a town. Ped amenities are often treated as impeding the movement of traffic and "warrants" must be met to impede the Holy Motorist. Until the public changes its attitudes and forces these engineering writs to recognize that when a highway enters a town, peds don't impede traffic but are an equally important part of traffic, these issues will remain gnarly. NMDOT must be one of the agencies that changes.


Anonymous said...

Today I was driving west on Trinity during the homecoming rush of chaos, and what do I see? A 60ish year old lady, standing two feet out into the road next to Ashley pond, looking for a gap in traffic so she could cross. Seems to me she was trying to commit suicide, and while I didn't oblige her on that score, I did lay into her with my horn a bit. Saw in my rear view mirror that she stepped another step out into the road after I passed.


Anonymous said...

The ugly truth is this: People have known Trinity Drive was "a problem" stemming way back into the late 80s, early 90s when there was raucous debate about crosswalks between Ashley Pond and the former Los Alamos Inn.

Probably the only reason our County Council acknowledged the issue this time around was because it involved developmentally disabled persons, a constituency that is politically difficult to ignore (particularly in an election year and at a time when one member of council is seeking a statewide office) and because it provides an opportunity for someone besides the county (the NM DOT) to address the problem.

Khal said...

Its been my experience that the County has been more sympathetic to pedestrian needs than the NMDOT, but that there has long been a pitched battle between vehicular level of service and getting people safely across the street.