A simple fix could save a life
In the Pantheon of paint prices, $93.49 for a one-gallon can is pretty expensive. That’s the price of a single gallon of Krylon yellow pavement striping paint. We checked.
But that gallon will cover approximately 350 linear feet of four-inch line. We checked that too.
What we haven’t checked is the precise distance between the legal, jurisdictional edge of Highway 12 where it encounters Arnold Drive outside Glen Ellen, and the point where the vestigial, highly-faded, barely-visible centerline stripe begins on Arnold Drive.
We haven’t checked because, to measure it would require running a tape measure down the middle of the road in traffic and that might get us arrested, maimed or killed.
Caltrans could do that, and so could the Sonoma County Department of Transportation and Public Works, with the help of a few plastic pylons and one or two people with signal flags and orange vests, but apparently neither has.
We estimate the distance to be somewhat less than 100 feet, a measure that could be covered – twice – by that single gallon can of Krylon yellow pavement striping paint.
Why is this important?
Some two years ago, Caltrans completely re-engineered the intersection at Highway 12 and Arnold Drive, reshaping the roadway curve there and adding a wider left-hand turn lane as well as a much-needed traffic signal. The project, we figure, cost millions of dollars and made a vast improvement in the safety of navigating that intersection. What it did not do was improve the safety of turning onto Arnold Drive from Highway 12 at night, when the virtual absence of any lane striping in that critical, first-100 feet, makes it sometimes impossible to locate the centerline of the road, or even the right-hand shoulder, because that’s not striped either.
As a result, motorists turning off 12 onto Arnold travel blind into an unlit vacuum of visibility. Why no one has run off the road and into the parallel drainage ditch is a mystery, but the fact that no one has been killed there in recent memory is probably why neither Caltrans nor the County of Sonoma, has bothered to paint that less-than-100-foot line. In the world of traffic engineering, it takes a certain threshold of accident frequency to trigger a fix.
We frankly assumed that Caltrans would add the missing link of pavement paint when it upgraded the intersection. They had striping machines right there. But bureaucracies being what they are, apparently connecting a county road to a state highway was beyond their authority, jurisdiction or concern.
The county, meanwhile, has masterfully repaved a section of Arnold Drive between the Sonoma Developmental Center and the Sonoma Golf Club, part of which they haven’t finished striping. We’re guessing they could throw in that 100-foot stretch at Highway 12 without much heavy lifting. And we’re guessing they won’t.
We’d do it ourselves, if they’d let us, for free. But we’re guessing they won’t do that either.
This is at least the fourth time we’ve asked someone to do something very simple, at this intersection, that could save a life.
And we’re guessing we’ll have to keep asking until someone dies.