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Monday, March 15, 2010

Beware the Ides of March

Tualco Valley

Yes, today is the Ides of March. I expect a letter from former student Leasel Bueler sending me best wishes for the day. Years ago when I taught Sophomore English, we studied Julius Caesar in class. I offered my classes five points extra credit to the first student from each class to wish me a “Happy Ides of March.” Leasel still continues the tradition. Happy Ides to you, too, Leasel.

In the ancient Roman calendar the Ides fall on the 15 March, May, July and October. The other months the Ides fall on the thirteenth. Each month is marked by by another benchmark, the Nones, which fall nine calendar days before the Ides. The ancient Romans had a complicated calendar, encumbered even more by a superabundance of holidays (thus the expression: “A Roman Holiday.”) All we have to worry about with our modern New Millennium calendar is Leap Year, daylight savings time, and April 15.

Julius Caesar, on the other hand, had to worry about the soothsayer and the daggers of Brutus and Cassius and the other Senators. “Beware the Ides of March,” the soothsayer told Caesar, advice, history tells us, he failed to heed with dire consequences to his health.

It is with some trepidation on this day, the Ides of March, that I look out a bedroom window and notice flashing lights down at the intersection of Tualco Rd. and SR 203. “Beware the WSDOT” for the next four to six months. The left turn lane project is underway.

This morning I called the informational number on the many numerous garish orange signs posted along SR 203 (425-225-8700, if you are so inclined to have a conversation with a WSDOT project manager). I talked to Mr. Farshid Namiranian (does that sound Irish to you?) and will pass along this information pertinent to the Tulalco/203 left turn lane project. The project’s intent is to widen  SR 203 at that intersection to allow for left hand turn lanes. There will be no lane closures for shoulder work. Work on the road itself will involve lane closures from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 and then again from 9:00 p.m. until midnight.  These lane closures may involve pilot cars to  assist traffic through the construction zone. To help with drainage (??) DOT will construct a “Media Filter Drain” from the corner of Tualco south nearly to the first residential driveway. This drain is intended to direct excess water to the culvert centerpoint on the embankment. The shoulder will be extended and the embankment incline revamped to a 4” to 1” slope (a steeper pitch than the angle of repose; any careening vehicle will still crash through the paddock fencing). Thanks, by the way to Mr. Namiranian, who addressed all my questions and concerns in a friendly, professional way as best he could.

I do have concerns about this project, and at the risk of being a NIMBY, here they are. First, the local community has had no input on this project. Two years ago I talked to  project manager Manuel J. Quinteiro (does that sound Irish to you?) about a public meeting addressing the project. Manuel and three assistants were taking some measurements along the project route. Mr. Quinteiro carried the blueprints, an assistant held a clipboard, the third a can of day-glo orange spray paint, and the fourth at the ready to pick up any item should one of his fellows drop something. Manuel said there would be a meeting and that the citizens impacted would be informed. No meeting was ever held. Matt Beebe who owns the business on the N. corner of Tualco/203 called again recently and was told there would be no meeting; the project was planned and would soon be underway. What  input would I have given were a meeting held? My first point would have been that WSDOT could save the state considerable money if they lowered the speed limit to 45 mph from Ben Howard Road to the Cadman quarry, posted a sign reading “Left Turns Ahead” with a flashing caution light north of the intersection, and enforced the reduced speed limit along that stretch of highway. This fix is not that  unreasonable. From Ben Howard Road to Cadman, a 2.3 mile stretch of road, there are ten businesses that cause traffic to slow for those vehicles wishing to turn. In these days of distracted drivers, 55 mph in this stretch is part of the problem.

A second issue I would have mentioned concerns the hydraulics in the area: how will the new drainage system affect the flow of water during flood season. Mr. Quinteiro said the drain would need to contain a 100 year flood. I told him that unless they diked ten acres around the south-west corner of Tualco, their drain would have little effect and might even exacerbate flooding in the area. Via email I shared with Manuel photos I took during the 2006 flood. He said he would “pass them along to his manger [sic].”culvert w.viewculvert, nw.viewStreutkers '06N. HighRock R.,'06

One would hope that this project makes the intersection safer. I have concerns about the left turn lanes. Will there be a problem if  north  and south bound vehicles converge simultaneously in the turn lane? Will the traffic turning north from Tualco Rd. have to cross two lanes of traffic (if the south bound turners to N. High Rock Road congest the turn lane, especially during hours of peak traffic flow)? Nearly all the accidents occur in the afternoon and involve inattentive drivers at speeds in excess of 55 mph rear-ending vehicles turning left to High Rock. I can think of only two accidents involving northbound traffic at that intersection. Both happened last summer. One involved a car turning into the businesses at the latte/fruit stand site. The other involved a motorcyclist who tried to pass  on the right a pickup towing a boat  and got tangled up with the boat trailer.


One final comment before I close this post. June 30, 2008, there was a double fatality accident at the project intersection. The accident involved a motorcycle traveling south on the fog line at a high rate of speed. A vehicle driven by a teenage girl, who did not see the cycle, pulled out, and was T-boned by the cyclist. Neither driver survived the impact which was so violent it flipped her car. My comment: there’s no left turn lane configuration in the world that can prevent stupidity.Tualco 203 2 fatality

Update: The project preparations continued today. The subcontractor, CSI, laid a "compost sock" along the project route. I talked to Tom, a supervisor, about work hours. He pulled a three-ring binder from his pickup and thumbed through about 400 pages of project info. Sorry to say, those of us in the construction zone are back to sleepless nights. Here's the work schedule according to Thomas: Monday through Friday, day construction from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Second shift: 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., Monday through Thursday. Plan your trips to town accordingly. Print this post

1 comment:

  1. I'm jealous of your fertilizer! Cows generate much more than worms...however, with my acreage worms are sufficient. :)