• Arne Mortensen

Kalama Calamity?

The new Kalama River Road construction between I-5 and Haydu Park (inclusive) is well underway. At the county, we received, from a person who hauls equipment, a complaint about the design of the roundabout and access into the roundabout. So, I drove out there for a firsthand look. I also walked from Modrow road to Meeker Road to get a different perspective.

The summary of my conclusions is that this is a poorly designed change that for years will impact us negatively, maybe even disastrously.

Let me recall for us that KRR handles logging truck, tourist, and local traffic, and that the access to KRR is only through the area under discussion. The area under construction is on City of Kalama property, but just beyond that is county road. As it has been explained to me, the Port of Kalama is making (and paying for) the road changes, but upon completion, the City of Kalama will resume responsibility for the road. Below I give you a brief summary of salient issues.

  • About the Roundabout: proper roundabouts allow for safe passage of all traffic, even, say, tandem trailer logging trucks. To achieve this goal requires considerable area. From other roundabouts in the area, I can see that trucks have to climb the center portion to be able to get through. That will be the case here.Is that bad? You be the judge. Furthermore, the access into the roundabout has been made purposely narrow as a means, I am told, to force traffic to go slowly to negotiate the passage. This may be reasonable, but I don’t think it is good practice to make obstacles to control traffic. I admit, I don’t like speed bumps. All in all, what is there may not please people, and may be obnoxious, but it likely is workable.

  • About the road changes: At the narrowest point a lane (one direction), is a bare 12 feet wide and bordered by curbs. If you jump a curb, you will be hung-up and will require a crane to get you out. There are large (~ 6 feet wide) islands separating the lane going west and the lane going east. Trucks already have had difficulty going through there, resulting in parts of the newly poured curbs being destroyed. Given the amount of area available for use, this is a VERY bad design.

  • Pedestrian fortunes: There is a wide sidewalk on the north side of that portion of KRR, the side opposite Haydu Park. To minimize pedestrian crossing of KRR, there should be a sidewalk on both sides. It will be a challenge to go from the current sidewalk to Meeker road. If I walk from Kamp Kalama or the river, to Haydu Park, I will have to cross the circle or KRR, twice. Maybe the sidewalk was built only for the new tenants of the Kress Lake Industrial Park (what is it’s official name?). Given that few people walk, maybe this isn’t a problem? But why build something that is problematic?

  • Bicycle fortunes: I often have ridden my bicycle on KRR. The section currently being rebuilt, previously was a safe zone for a cyclist: Plenty of wide shoulder and room for vehicles to move to the other lane to give plenty of space for a cyclist. All of that is now gone. To ride that new section of KRR will be very dangerous. A moment of distraction and a cyclist will become a hood ornament. I was told that bicyclists could use the above-mentioned sidewalk.Aside from the fact that by vehicle code, bicyclists have the same rights and obligations as motorized vehicles, there are several problems with this callous suggestion, all related to safety.Since when are we citizens okay with reducing public safety?Let’s not forget that Haydu park will attract young bicyclists, a group who are less likely to make legal and safe choices on the road. We also should not forget that E-bicycle are on the rise. These and current bicycles are not to be treated as toys. They can be part of a healthful and practical lifestyle. (In San Diego County I commuted 10 miles each way by bicycle for many years.)

  • Emergency situations: Trucks have a standard width of 8’6”. Squeezing them into a 12 feet wide curbed roadway will results in problems.Once they are hung on the curb the truck will not move and it will block traffic. Once there is a blockage due to any type of accident, through traffic will be severely hampered. ... Oh! You have an upstream emergency; you will have to wait. BTW, I saw some emergency vehicle code requirements on roadways (elsewhere in the country) as 20 feet minimum uncurbed width. For an arterial, this makes sense.

  • Taxpayer costs: The several islands and dividers will require continual maintenance, or they will accumulate trash and unsightly vegetation. The city is looking at going for a bond or more taxes to do maintenance on city streets. Apparently, they currently cannot afford to maintain what they have, so what do you think will happen with all these new obligations?

In cases in which there are no choices, serious compromises can be understood. In this case, I cannot see a reason why the public safety and pocket cannot be protected. It already will be expensive to fix this because despite pointing out the problems, there seems to be no interest to address the issues.

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