Opinion: The general plan and traffic congestion

“One of the advantages of being an “old timer” who grew up in this town in the 50’s and 60’s and who actively participated in the General Plan (GP) process during 1990-92 is perspective.”

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Peter Hunter Guest Columnist

One of the advantages of being an “old timer” who grew up in this town in the 50’s and 60’s and who actively participated in the General Plan (GP) process during 1990-92 is perspective. John Donlevy points to the General Plan adopted at that time as a blueprint for further development as if it represented some sort of consensus of the City at that time. I’m afraid not.

There was wide participation in the 90-92 GP process. At the end, very few residents were happy with the outcome. It was felt that the plan was promoted by a City Manager (Perry Beck) who seemed to be more interested in developer interests than citizen interests. Beck would come to community meetings walking in laughing and cajoling in with developers who were pushing the General Plan revision.

During the 90-92 GP process, a group of 25-30 area residents formed a “General Plan Workgroup.” We met every couple of weeks and went over every section of the proposed plan and offered alternatives that we felt were more in line with the character of Winters we were trying to preserve.

Transportation and traffic congestion was one of our focus areas. Two of us in the workgroup had computer and traffic modeling experience. We obtained the traffic model used by the consultants and were able to analyze their analysis. As it turned out we discovered they used extremely conservative estimates of traffic impacts resulting from planned housing developments. When we re-ran the analysis using more realistic estimates, the projected congestion levels were far higher. Needless to say, the City accepted the conservative impact result and set a target Level of Service (LOS) to level C (Policy III.A.1). Level of Service (LOS) rankings range from A to F, with level F associated with frequent gridlock.

What is the situation 26 years later? Interesting enough, the City commissioned a “Circulation Master Plan” study in November 2017. The consultants reported the 2017 LOS on both Grant and Railroad was in fact at Level D. Their recommendation was that the City simply revise the LOS policy from C to D. (Page 8 of the Circulation Master Plan).

The reality is, measured congestion on Grant and Railroad is currently at level D with just the existing development in town. We are still below the build-out numbers called for in the 92 GP. One can only imagine congestion levels in Winters if annexation and the Bellvue development proceeds.

I think the prudent strategy is to put a moratorium on all future expansion and let current projects complete. Then we can have a discussion about if our town wants to accept more development and more traffic.

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