Time for change? – Accident-prone intersection fix in the works
After moseying eastbound on Idaho-Maryland Road, drivers suddenly come up upon Brunswick Road – at a point where traffic is maniacally fleeing Glenbrook Basin congestion or flying down the hill toward town.
Crossing the thoroughfare, needless to say, can be dangerous. With six to seven accidents a year, the intersection – conduit to about 17,000 vehicles per day – is the county’s most hazardous, said Senior Engineer John Rumsey.
This accident-prone intersection was the focus of a forum Wednesday that allowed community leaders to discuss the intersection’s future with Nevada County engineers.
Making the intersection safer could be done by changing the behavior of drivers, or changing the road.
Rumsey favors changing the road, inserting raised medians on Brunswick to prevent crossing traffic and preserve Brunswick’s expressway status.
The road ferries traffic between highways 49 and 174 and “serves a very important function of moving many goods and people through the county,” Rumsey said.
But local neighbors and Loma Rica Ranch developer Phil Carville want to tame Brunswick, softening it with speed traps, signs, or signals.
“We need to change our mindset (on) how we think about cars,” Carville said. “The automobile is served with no regard to kids or the environment. Someday this will be a street in the city of Grass Valley.”
Calling Brunswick “over-engineered,” Carville appealed for creative ideas to make the road crossable for pedestrians and bicyclists. A signal seems the simple answer. But with steep slopes, stopping on the slippery street wouldn’t work, Rumsey said.
And state speed limit requirements force traffic engineers to set a “self-enforcing” speed limit – one exceeded by only 15 percent of the traffic, on average.
Therefore, arbitrarily lowering the limit isn’t possible to enforce, Rumsey said.
The intersection wasn’t always perilous. Until three years ago, the intersection hovered at three to four accidents a year. Then an injury accident began happening about every two months.
This jump caught the county’s attention, Rumsey said. Officials had hoped to address the road when Loma Rica Ranch – one of the four major developments pending before Grass Valley – is developed.
Then, the plan would be to shift Idaho-Maryland north to meet with Dorsey Drive – and its long-awaited connection to Highway 49 – at Sutton Way.
But too many people are being injured to wait.
So, with the assistance of a safety team from University of California-Berkeley, Rumsey and other county transportation planners began to investigate low-cost, accident-slashing alternatives.
The Berkeley team recommended pruning vegetation, widening the shoulders, and restricting right turns.
Rumsey said he agreed with the team’s suggestions but felt the top priority was to stop Idaho-Maryland traffic from crossing Brunswick. Crossing vehicles cause two-thirds of the accidents, Rumsey said.
His current preference is forcing Idaho-Maryland drivers to turn onto Brunswick. This preserves the ability of Brunswick drivers to cruise through the intersection. But it could force drivers to attempt an unsafe U-turn somewhere else.
Rumsey is accepting comments and suggestions for the intersection. He can be reached at email@example.com or 265-1411.
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