What's up with that? County counts cars to plan painting of rural roads

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

Published:

 

The county recently put down gravel and tar on Southeast 17th Avenue, which turns into Coffey Road, which turns into Northeast 312th Avenue. The road used to have a double yellow line but they did not restripe it. It's really dark at night, and now you cannot see the road. When I asked about the stripe, they said this is one of several roads that won't get a stripe because of low traffic. It's a narrow country road, and it's still got a 50 mph speed limit. At night, without the stripe, it's hard to tell when you're on the road and when you're headed for the ditch. People are driving right down the center of the road because they can't see. Why can't we get a stripe on that road?

— Yvonne Goldsmith, Washougal River area

Not all roads are created equal, Yvonne. And since Clark County adopted formal guidelines for center and edge lines on local-access roads this year, they're even less alike than they used to be.

According to public works spokesman Jeff Mize, the county has gotten more consistent about road striping than it used to be. He said the county will stripe more rural roads, like yours, this year than it used to in a typical year: about 250 miles' worth, he said.

Unfortunately for you, Yvonne, your road isn't one of them. After evaluating and re-evaluating, the county is sticking by its guns: your stripe isn't coming back.

Mize said the county will maintain roadway stripes, even on roads that don't qualify according to the new rules, until roads are resurfaced. That's when the new guidelines kick in. If the resurfaced road doesn't meet the guidelines, the county won't replace the old stripe with a new one — unless there's a demonstrated safety need "based on the professional judgment of a traffic engineer who will consider crash history and other information," Mize said.

In this case, he said: "The crash data did not indicate the need for centerline and/or edge line striping." After you pressed the point, Yvonne, the county went back out in early September and reconsidered, doing a new rush-hour traffic count on that road.

The results only confirmed their position, Mize said. "Based on those counts, we estimate that weekday average daily traffic is 700 to 800 vehicles," he said. Federal guidelines require striping on rural roads that carry more than 4,000 vehicles per day; the new county guideline is "more conservative," he said, requiring striping on rural roads that carry over 1,500 vehicles per day. That's approximately twice as much traffic as this road carries.

Your stripe is history, Yvonne. What the county will do, Mize added, is replace existing warning and advisory signs on the road with bigger, brighter ones that "offer more safety benefit than centerline and edge line striping."