Archive for July, 2017

Rotary sight lines

July 26, 2017

The State of Vermont has installed quite a few rotarys in the past few years, mostly because federal funding is available and we love that federal money.  The rotarys take intersections that were working just fine and make them more difficult to navigate.  This is due, in part, to the fact that they have very small diameters (because not much room was available). Larger rotaries work much better.

One of new rotarys, in Waterbury, has “pretty” plantings in the center.  I drive a sports car most of the time, and I sit low, so that those plantings make it very difficult to see oncoming traffic at the rotary.

I complained to the State, saying that sight lines needed to be assessed with an eye height of about 42 inches, so that people driving sports cars could see safely.  My guess was that most road crew personnel drive huge trucks, and do not consider what it is like to drive lower vehicles.

The first surprise was that the State does not maintain the rotary on a State highway; the town of Waterbury does.  Really?!?

The second, and more amazing surprise, was the following from the State:

“The main objective of a roundabout is to keep traffic moving at a very SLOW rate of speed. There are many factors utilized to make this happen. One of which is the inability to see through the roundabout. This tool forces our road users to only focus on their entrance/exit strategy. I’ve attached the exact language that dictates this standard.  In essence this strategy forces people to slow down and prevent serious crashes. Many studies have been conducted on crash data within a roundabout. All of which have concluded that the slow rate of speed and angle of traveling vehicle significantly reduce serious injuries.  Note that ISD=Intersection Sight Distance.

NCHRP 672 (Roundabout Guide, Second Edition) Section 6.2 which says: “…to provide no more than the minimum required ISD on each approach to the roundabout … excessive ISD can lead to higher vehicle speeds that reduce the safety of the intersection for all road users (motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians).  Landscaping within the central island is effective in restricting sight distance to the minimum requirements while creating a terminal vista on the approach to improve visibility of the central island.”

So, the objective of a rotary is to prevent drivers from seeing oncoming traffic.  We spend so much time trying to ensure sight lines everywhere else, but here we give up on that notion?  It simply makes no sense at all.

First off, it they really want to eliminate sight lines, why not put up 10 foot walls around the center of the rotary?  No one does that, so the claim that they want to limit sight distance seems unfounded.

But, more importantly, the sight lines for truck drivers remains unimpeded.  They are only making it difficult for car drivers (especially sports cars) and not for the more dangerous vehicles (large trucks and buses).  So, dangerous vehicles drive faster, while cars drive slower.

Again, federal guidelines with bogus logic dictate local requirements.

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Federally mandated road signs are way too reflective

July 26, 2017

I live out in the middle of nowhere, with the nearest street light perhaps 5 miles away.  When I drive at night, the only illumination comes from my headlights, usually on high beam.

Over the past 5 or 10 years, new federal regulations have mandated that road signs be replaced with “newer and better” sign technology.  In particular, the signs are much more reflective (brighter) than the older ones.  This is not simply because an old and worn-out sign has been replaced by a newer one: the signs are designed to be much brighter.

When driving in a city, with lots of street lights, the brighter signs are useful, but out in the country, the new signs are dazzling.  They are too bright to be read (other than as a dazzling blob) and they make it very difficult to spot people or animals near the sight line of the signs.    They are unsafe.

This seems to be another example of stupid bureaucracy run amok.  What is good for the city is good for the country.  This is simply not true.

But the levels of bureaucracy that need to be penetrated to even get heard is beyond my level of stamina.  So, new signs will be installed in town this year, and they will not only be a huge waste of money, but they will make driving more difficult and dangerous.