My Turn: Purposely generating hysteria in Kings Beach
Walking home after the Kings Beach Fourth of July fireworks, I was embarrassed for our town.
The crowd of spectators had to walk a pathetic, dangerous, dimly lit obstacle course of logs, rocks and parked cars along the lakeshore highway in downtown Kings Beach. I want to help Kings Beach become more pedestrian and driver friendly. For this reason, I was very disappointed when the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board decided to overrule the majority and recommend the four-lane alternative.
A friend recently reminded me of the questions I had asked during one of the earlier planning meetings for the Kings Beach Core. The presenters, whom I believe were representatives of Caltrans, seemed to have an agenda to purposely generate hysteria. They repeated several times that by 2025 there will be 20-hour queues going through Kings Beach during peak periods.
This could have implied several things. I thought they meant that for 20 hours a driver may have to wait more than one signal cycle to pass through town. My perspective comes from studying urban planning and traffic patterns at Chico State.
Many other people thought that they might have to wait 20 hours to pass through Kings Beach. The presenters never clarified this point, even after I questioned them.
I also scanned the data that Caltrans used to make those projections. Some of the data was grossly overblown. For example, on my block between Chipmunk and Fox on Cutthroat Avenue, the data said that at the present time over 300 cars an hour pass there on average every day. I found that extremely high and asked around at the meeting as to how they came up with those numbers. I was told that it was only an estimate and not a real count.
The more realistic number should have been less than a tenth of that. At that time, I had been living and building my home on that block for 24 hours a day; the traffic volume rarely went over 30 cars per hour during peak hours. The 24-hour average is less than 10 cars per hour. I could see that the data all over Kings Beach stated similar grossly exaggerated numbers.
Caltrans used those flawed numbers to extrapolate the notion of the 20-hour queue. I think that meeting gave birth to the vociferous minority that became vehemently opposed to the three-lane roundabout option. All their concern is based on flawed data.
The roundabout option is the best way. Pedestrians will only have to cross one lane at a time with a refuge in the roundabout. Even the ubiquitous jaywalker will have a quasi refuge in the center turn lane instead of the four-lane gauntlet we have now. With roundabouts, we can end the pedestrian fatalities that have become so common since we put the four-lane freeway through town.
Businesses will prosper with the roundabout option because they will become much more accessible. A family driving by and seeing a bakery will tend to drive on by if they have to negotiate a U turn or cut through residential streets to go back. With a roundabout, they will be parked in front of the bakery in less than a minute because the roundabout makes it so easy to get there.
Cut through traffic will be increased with the four-lane option. Drivers stopped and waiting for a signal are much more likely to seek shortcuts through residential streets. Roundabouts offer drivers continuous movement through town making them much less likely to cut through the side streets.
I hope when the TRPA board reconsiders their vote that they do the right thing this time and approve the three-lane hybrid option.