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The KISS scenario
For those of us who grew up in the 1970s and early '80s, you probably have a vision of Gene Simmons covered in makeup with his tongue attempting to touch the bottom of his chin. That isn't what I mean by KISS.
Did anyone ever tell you, "Keep it Simple Stupid?" I tend to be one of those people who make things more complicated than they need to be, as my family will attest. But as we grow older, I have found the simpler the better and definitely, the simpler the less stressful.
So last month when the idea of roundabouts was once again brought up to the North Bend City Council by a consultant, I asked myself, is that the simplest method to traffic control for North Bend Way?
I drive that section of roadway several times a day. The two points on the road that seem to cause the most congestion are the entrance to the post office and the intersection of Southeast Cedar Falls Way and North Bend Way. Nobody will argue that something needs to be done at both intersections. Trying to pull out of the post office to turn toward town or darting across the road from QFC can be a harrowing experience (unless you are driving a large four-door truck).
But the question that needs to be asked is this: What is the simplest, most cost-effective method of handling traffic at those two intersections?
The consultant did say that traffic accidents were reduced at intersections where a roundabout had been installed versus a traditional intersection. That is a good thing. Of course it doesn't measure the stress or near collisions that occur when people have no clue on how to merge into a roundabout. Just head down East Lake Sammamish Parkway sometime and observe how many people still don't understand what "yield" means. That roundabout is also an indicator of how a roundabout can clog traffic. The backup to get to I-90 from that roundabout can be a mile or more long during rush hour.
In contrast, a stop light is something we all deal with on a daily basis. Most of us know how to enter an intersection and when to be cautious. Yes, there are idiots who think that yellow means accelerate and they are the reason our insurance rates keep climbing. But in general, the population knows how to use a traffic light.
What about pedestrians? Crossing North Bend Way now is an exercise in self preservation. The song "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" echoes in my head (along with a lot of other things) whenever I attempt to cross the road at existing cross walks. Will roundabouts make crossing North Bend Way safer? That question hasn't been fully answered. Of course, anything is safer than what we have now and honestly, I think traffic lights would be acceptable to the general public.
Last but not least I can't help but feel a bit of déjà vu. Didn't the council already make a decision to go with lights? Why are roundabouts rearing themselves again? Is the city going to be in a perpetual planning mode when it comes to traffic management in those two intersections or are we going to solidify a plan soon and move forward?
I urge all those who have a vested interest in traffic in downtown North Bend to let their council representatives and city staff know their feelings. Send them an e-mail or give them a call.