Committee says ‘new thinking’ is necessary to
neighborhoods’ from ‘dangers’ of traffic
Report and Commentary by Sue Forde, Managing Editor, Citizen
County, WA – After a number of highly debated public
hearings about proposed road reconstruction, the Clallam
County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on Aug.
10, 1999 appointing citizen members to the Clallam County
Rural Roads Design Standards Advisory Committee.
The Committee was given two tasks: to come up with
recommendations for “appropriate” community
involvement during road project development; and to
formulate recommendations for design standards used in
road construction and reconstruction in rural areas.
November 2000, the Committee submitted its report to the
commissioners, which related primarily to major and minor
rural collectors in the Sequim/Port Angeles area.
The Committee, which consisted of 11 individuals,
most of whom expressed concern with a current
“automobile-centered” design approach, want to move
away from automobile usage, and toward “multi-modal
transportation” – i.e. walking, bicycling and other
non-motorized methods of transportation.
The report expressed concern about “sprawl” in
the rural areas, as well as the urban areas.
“transportation element must be consistent with the land
use element,” the report states, but has left in place
instead the “old, sprawl-promoting transportation design
and performance standards.”
It says “while the “[existing Clallam County
Countywide] comprehensive plan is essentially an
anti-sprawl document, it neglects to consider that sprawl
is not just remote low-density development but also the
automobile-centered transportation system that serves
it.” (emphasis theirs).
“This automobile-centered approach is especially
destructive to rural neighborhoods,” (emphasis theirs)
the report states. (Ed. Comment: see our story on
“sprawl” to get another viewpoint.)
introduction states that “road construction and sprawl
are related issues that have generated controversy in
Clallam County, Washington, and nationally.
When constructing or reconstructing roads,
conventional engineering practice requires the use of
automobile-centered design standards.
The focus of these standards is to move the maximum
number of motorized vehicles through the system as rapidly
They ignore the effects of automobile traffic on
surrounding environment and neighborhoods.
decades of this approach with its attendant costs and
destructiveness to neighborhoods, communities around the
state and nation are changing their road design process. (Ed.
Note: see our story on the “consensus process”).
With the ‘encouragement’ of new federal
transportation policies (ed. Note: top-down
governance), many communities are questioning the old
speed-focused design standards.
People want projects that enhance their
They want safe multi-modal transportation.
Some states have abandoned the conventional design
standards altogether in favor of more flexible standards.
thinking is necessary to protect neighborhoods and
communities from the dangers of traffic.” (emphasis
(Ed. Note: Over the past 8 years of the Clinton
administration, many new “new thinking” projects have
been put into place – read the articles by Henry Lamb to
see where this “new thinking” is heading.)
committee, the report says, “believes the unacknowledged
price for rural character preservation and intact rural
neighborhoods is slower traffic speed.
Sacrificing driver ‘comfort and convenience’
may be necessary in some instances to preserve the
integrity and safety of rural neighborhoods as well as
rural character.” (emphasis theirs)
order to accomplish this goal, the committee proposes that
roads be built much narrower than they have been.
“We believe the best way to decrease speeds and
the ‘detrimental effects of traffic’” is to include
features like “narrow traffic lanes and curves”.
(Ed. Comment: What about using a far less
expensive method of speed limit signs??)
report states that “today’s roads are designed for the
‘operationally efficiency (speed), comfort, safety, and
convenience’ of the worst driver, speeding in the
largest vehicle, in the worst traffic 20 years from
now.” (emphasis theirs)
goes on to say that this approach is that a roadway is
wider, straighter, flatter and faster than the road it
The report says that factors such as “safety for
children, comfort and safety for people walking or
bicycling, right-of-ways for a separate trail or path,
noise, air and water pollution, and sprawl” are not
roads are important public spaces where the residents take
a walk, jog, meet their neighbors, and let their children
walk or bike,” it says.
“It is the front porch values and goals of rural
citizens which the land use policies of the comprehensive
plan articulates.” (Ed. Note: Living on a rural road
myself, I have never noticed people meeting their
neighbors on a roadway – and with the width of the
present standard roads, there is plenty of room for
walkers, joggers, bicyclists, etc.
I would never allow a child to walk on any road
without my being there – would you?
It seems that narrowing the roads would create a
far greater hazard to all concerned.)
report boldly states, “Nationwide there is an increasing
awareness that road design is neighborhood design.”
Where is the local control in this?
Repeatedly this report calls on nationwide
transitions in road design, rather than looking at our
Why should we jump on the bandwagon just because
“they” are doing it??
Who are “they” anyway??)
findings and recommendations of the committee include:
Because of a “lack of effective public
notification and absence of a forum for effective public
involvement”, public hearings associated with road
reconstruction projects in Clallam County have been
The county has no written procedure for notifying
and involving citizens in the development and design of
road improvement projects.
Read about the consensus process, and how
“groups” are brought to “predetermined outcomes”
– this is the type of “forum” consistently used in
Clallam County and elsewhere to “educate” the
population sufficiently so they’ll agree with the
outcomes that the county wants.”
adopt the citizen involvement process described in their
publication “Road Work: Citizen Involvement in Rural
Road Design, Clallam County, Washington.”
The Committee believes that this process, which
encourages early and continuous citizen involvement, will
eliminate much of the discord currently experienced during
road project development. It is modeled after the public
process recommended by the Federal Highway Administration
and meets the GMA requirements for public involvement.”
(Ed. Note: in a word, “group think” is used in this
“process”, rather than allowing for “individual
See the use of the Delphi Technique and the
Consensus Process to attain Pre-Determined Outcomes.)
use of the Washington state city/county standards on road
reconstruction projects in Clallam County sabotages county
policies on rural lands, rural neighborhoods, and
In doing so these design standards take the county
out of compliance with the Growth Management Act of 1990 (RCW
36.70A) and the Planning Enabling Act (RCW 36.70).
committee believes the best way to decrease speeds and the
detrimental effect of traffic is to retain the existing
features of our rural roads that tend to slow traffic.
These features, including narrow traffic lanes and
curves, are the same features that give rural roads their
charm and rural character. We believe the trade-off for
preserving rural character, presently unacknowledged in
the Clallam County Comprehensive Plan, is reduced speed
for motorized vehicles.”
committee recommends the county commissioners adopt the
more flexible Vermont design standards for use on rural
collectors and local roads, and consider its use on
arterial reconstruction projects passing through defined
The Vermont design standards are recognized
nationally for their flexibility and ability to preserve
rural character, while providing for safe multi-modal
These standards have also been adopted in rural
a largely rural state, develops its standards specifically
to give road designers greater flexibility to preserve
valuable historic, cultural, and scenic resources as they
plan transportation improvements.
Because of their more flexible approach to design
controls and cross-sectional elements, the Vermont
standards can accomplish the following goals:
motorized vehicle speed
part of the right-of-way for a separate pedestrian path.
“Making Walking and Cycling Safer: Lessons from
Europe”, the report states “Pedestrian and bicyclist
injuries and deaths are a serious public health problem
that has largely been ignored in the United States.”
The report makes false premises – calling on
national statistics to validate what is being promoted for
the Clallam County rural area. “In the U.S. 6,000
pedestrians are killed every year; 90,000 are
injured…” the stats go on and on.
“The causes of these depressing statistics are
rooted in the way we have been designing our roads.
It is time for change.”
(Ed. Note: How can they come to this conclusion?
With few exceptions, I would warrant to say that
it’s not the roads’ design that causes accidents but
careless drivers and/or pedestrians/bicyclists.
The blame could be placed as easily on the
increasing incidence of alcoholism and drug abuse – and
probably is in other reports, where the predetermined
outcome is to gain more funding for this social issues…)
decent conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists is not
just a matter of public safety.
It is also a matter of fairness and civic
responsibility,” the report states.
(ed. Note: Why should government get involved in
issues of this nature?
I have driven along many country roads, and seen
the courtesy and consideration of drivers everywhere
concerning pedestrians and bicyclists.
They slow down and make a wide berth around them so
as not to disturb them.
Another factor: Just how many pedestrians and
bicyclists are there – enough to warrant adversely
affecting motorists in their interest?
How safe is it to have extremely narrow roads –
especially in the winter months, when you might need that
extra bit of pavement to keep from going into the ditch
– or a place for an emergency vehicle to park in the
event of an accident?)
report calls upon the idea of following the San Juan
County scenic roads manual, which “describes, protects
and enhances their rural roads scenic qualities.”
“Our county roads are part of the scenic element
and rural character that should be preserved,” the San
Juan Commissioners stated in March 1995.
Their byways are characterized by “narrow
roadways with diverse and contrasting features in close
proximity”…providing “a unique visual experience
when traveling through the rural landscape.”
There exists “an intimacy and awareness of the
landscape not obtainable on higher speed roads,” the San
Juan manual says.
It goes on to say that the roads there that have
been widened, straightened, paved, or otherwise
‘improved’ have often caused “changes to
environmental features and in turn have degraded the
scenic and cultural values associated with a rural
(Ed. Comment: Since when is a road built primarily
for a scenic drive; I always thought the purpose of a road
was to get a person from one place to another in the
quickest, safest way.
This is all very “touchy feely”, and I don’t
believe that Clallam County residents, for the most part,
are in favor of this type of thinking.
No wonder the public hearings were called
“contentious” in the report!)
Committee takes it upon itself in the report to define
what the Clallam County Comprehensive Plan calls “rural
The term “rural character” was not defined in
the Plan, so the committee decides to define it here:
“Based on the intent of the comprehensive plan to
preserve rural quality of life for local residents, the
committee believes the following to be true with regards
to rural character:
proper perspective for defining rural character is the
front porch perspective, that is, the perspective of each
of us from our home environment and neighborhood as we
work or sit and enjoy a summer afternoon or go for a walk
with our family.
It is not the perspective of the commuter or the
The comprehensive plan intends to preserve rural
quality of life and the context of rural neighborhoods
from the perspective of local residents.
character is a scenic landscape of open spaces, and also
is composed of the human activities upon that landscape
that define rural life.
Restoring the multi-modal function of rural roads
should be the first priority of any contemplated
improvement project, giving non-motorized users equal
consideration in rural neighborhoods and where otherwise
appropriate. (Ed. Note: The intent here is to take us back
to pre-motorized vehicle days.)
Drivers passing through rural areas need to be
alert and moving slowly enough to react safely to the
occasional slowly moving tractor, horseback rider, or
group of school children walking from the school bus stop.
(Ed. Comment: We ALREADY do this!!
And there are ALREADY laws in place to punish
people who don’t obey the speed limit, or who might
bring harm to another individual.)
rural roads are an integral part of the rural landscape
and rural neighborhoods, their design will either improve
or degrade rural character.
of rural character requires slower, not faster traffic
speeds. (Ed. Comment: the whole argument here is against
faster speeds – the concept of wider roads being safer
roads is completely ignored.)
“On faster roads the city/county standards call
for clearing a wide swath through the landscape, removing
trees and other vegetation, lowering hills and
straightening curves to provide increased stopping sight
distances and clear zones.
Wider expanses of asphalt, higher vehicle speeds,
and removal of vegetation are the antithesis of rural
character.” (emphasis theirs)
character has economic value for the residents and
property owners of rural Clallam County.”
New Old-Fashioned Road
report states: “New federal transportation policies
encourage a “throw out the manuals” approach to
project design which focuses on neighborhoods and
community rather than on commuting.
They further recommend that designers use an
“outside-in” approach to designing roads, focusing
first on the needs of children, bicyclists, and
pedestrians and then on people driving motorized
This is total promotion of the multi-modal system
of transportation that has been promoted for the past
eight years, which de-emphasizes the use of the
automobile, and emphasizes instead the use of walking and
bicycling as alternative transportation modes.
This concept comes from Europe, and from an
administration, which believes in globalization, top-down
management, rather than local management where the local
people can decide for themselves what’s best for them.
report states that the best protection from liability
exposure is to document the decision-making process and
the design process, which guided project development.
It appears there is a concern about lawsuits in the
event the narrower roads turn out more in the way of
sources to the report include the Sierra Club, the Smart
Growth Network (an anti-sprawl organization), “How to
protect communities from Asphalt and Traffic, by the
Conservation Law Foundation, the Environmental Law
Journal, the U. S. Dept. of Transportation, and the
Alabama Dept. of Transportation, among others.