Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Roundabout Is Solution to Parkway/High House

I’ve been a resident of Cary since 1982 which qualifies me—compared to most of this “town’s” populous citizenry—as being somewhat of a native but not an original. My guess, without looking at official records, is that the total census back then was much, much less than 10% of today’s sum.

This really has nothing to do with anything which is similar to saying someplace is in the middle of nowhere when we all know that everyplace is in the middle of somewhere but it’s possible we might not know where somewhere is. But it does give me pause to make comment on some of the pressing problems with the Town of Cary which is surely among the top five in total citizens of incorporated municipalities in North Carolina. Maybe someone, somewhere, somehow will clue me in on that.

Anyway, today’s comment is about traffic, probably more important to Cary residents than school assignment, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, unemployment levels and the overall cost of living. For some inane reason, Cary residents are in too damn much of a hurry to get someplace, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Or, it could be that the streets of Cary are simply being used as a pass through for non-residents because, to give the Town leaders their due, the streets of Cary are basically very nice thoroughfares with beautiful landscaping and the near non-existence of signage for businesses. In other words, it’s a pleasure to drive in and through Cary.

Except for the traffic, if you ask anyone who navigates the Cary system of roads on a regular basis. What used to be a short-in-time drive to the bank and post office now requires a smart GPS system that locates the bottle necks and routes you around such. What used to take 10 minutes is now 15 minutes, heaven forbid, but instead of battling and complaining about stupid drivers (them, not me), I like to stretch it into 20 minutes and save my sanity.

What I really like to do is drive the speed limit of 45 miles per hour along the Cary Parkway. At that pace, by the time I travel from highway US 1 to Lake Pine Drive, even without hitting a red light at any of the six intersections with traffic lights, there’s a huge back-up behind me, drivers all too damn impatient and wanting to get to a local destination in record time just to brag to a partner, “Made it home in six minutes today instead of seven.” Everyone, except me, on the Cary Parkway, seems to be in such a hurry you’d think they had an appointment with a toilet because of a diarrhea problem. And they’re on the cell phone telling someone about the problem and the slow traffic that insists on the speed limit instead of 55 or 60 MPH. Where are the cops?!?!?

And, by the time most of the traffic (make that drivers of traffic vehicles) gets beyond my turn and to the intersection of the Cary Parkway and High House Road, arriving there from any of four directions, waiting a minute and 18 seconds in the morning (not sure of the hours) or a minute and 36 seconds in the evening (not sure of the exact times) for the light to turn green and to get through the crisscross of major Cary thoroughfares is simply so exasperating that yellow lights are now simply extensions of green and red lights are no more yellow than yellow are, resulting in 67 “crashes” (not sure if that’s multiple car crashes or one car crashes) from July 2005 to July 2008. (Don’t have stats for since then, but based on population increase and additional traffic, that number has to have risen.)

Town traffic planners (maybe a misnomer) came up with a crazy idea to reroute traffic with a series of twists and turns and side roads and additional traffic lights, but the Town Council in all its wisdom, knowing the ingenuity of local drives who would have used nearby parking lots as pass-throughs, rejected the staff proposal and said, “Go back to the drawing board and give us something the public will appreciate and not use against us in the next election.” That process took much of the year 2009 and ended in January of this year with the Council’s edict.

So, a new questionnaire—Cary Parkway/High House Road Intersection Survey—has been posted on the Tow of Cary website to ask anyone who wants to answer the 25 questions which we are told takes 20 minutes to complete and is just as most surveys are: It’s stacked in favor of those who developed the survey. It has questions patterned after: When did you stop beating your spouse? There’s no right way to answer most of the questions.

For instance, to paraphrase: Do you want to tear up the beautiful surroundings and landscaping that are trademark to Cary and put in more and more asphalt that will be ugly, just in the name of reducing traffic travel time by 20 seconds? Okay, so that’s not exactly what it says, but I’m not too far off. What the survey shows is that the traffic planners do not have any viable alternatives to what was offered last year, and this survey is something to give them confirmation that their original plan is the only plan. So, instead of just pointing this out, I offer a solution in steps:

-First, reduce the speed limit on both streets to 35 MPH for at least two blocks prior to the intersection;
-Second, if the first suggestion doesn’t work, install traffic calming humps in the lanes entering the intersection; and,
-Third, and this one is serious (though the 35 MPH is not a bad idea), change the intersection to a giant roundabout/traffic circle that takes out most of the beautiful surroundings and landscaping but installs designated right turn lanes and keeps traffic moving, for the most part, through the bottleneck of stop and go. It works in many places—such as Hilton Head Island and Pinehurst—where there’s as much or more traffic. Why not in Cary?

Probably because Cary planners do not like the idea just as they used to not like the idea of four-way stop sign intersections and probably because those who travel that area are in too damn much of a hurry to get someplace so they can tell anyone and everyone that they made it to somewhere in the middle of nowhere in record time. I say try it there, just for fun. In 20 or 30 years, it can be torn up for another solution.

Or, those of navigate our streets can just slow down and smell the fumes, the price for population increase in Cary, where I’ve called home since 1982, longer than most who do the same.

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