September 2011 home page

  Not That Daughter
Bill Michalsky | Stratford Court
Washington State Department of Transportation


DAR… NOT Daughters of the American Revolution, but Direct Access Ramp. Add this to your list of little used acronyms. You are forgiven if you don’t know what this is; think CALTRANS, the freeway guys and SANDAG, the regional planning agency, and then add in the recent CALTRANS Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for building out I-5 over the next 40 years. Mix in ongoing traffic growth, add a dash of Flower Hill Promenade build-out and some spice in the proposed intensification of use at the Fairgrounds and you get an I-5/Via de la Valle interchange that already scores a Level of Service “F” at many times, something that we have all experienced in recent local summer trips to neighboring communities. The DEIR identified Flower Hill and the Fairgrounds as potential traffic elements to consider but did not include actual traffic counts or impacts that their intensified uses might bring. The DEIR identified the possibility of adding a DAR to the Fairgrounds and suggested that the Fairgrounds should cover the costs of construction. The DAR, as then considered, would be dedicated to feed into a proposed 5 or 6 story parking garage that would serve the Fairgrounds, on the east lot, in the flood plain west of I-5.

So what is this DAR? The ramps are built, ideally, as special purpose devices to move traffic to specific locations. In most cases they are designed to move vehicles from HOV/express lanes, in the center of the freeway, to parking or transit locations; locally DARs have been built on the I-15 build-out. In his response to the Fairgrounds DEIR, local Bill Lewis and associates, identified a differently configured DAR to serve the Fairgrounds; this design would have the ramps placed to the outside of the freeway as most of us are used to utilizing. In either case the DAR would consist of bridges or flyovers to cross the freeway adding more of a footprint to the I-5 build-out. Members of the City Council have recently suggested that CALTRANS/SANDAG should again study this approach as a remedy to handling traffic at this location. It is likely that the Via de la Valle interchange will have to be rebuilt to accommodate more lanes of traffic under and over this existing viaduct in any case. The challenge is to understand the impacts of the potential design elements. The I-5 corridor is likely to grow in width by 39 feet on both sides without a DAR. So what would the DAR add? It is difficult to imagine at this time, but one should recognize that it will include bridges with feeder ramps all linked to a future parking structure, etc. This will not be friendly to the newly restored lagoon and wetlands; it will likely generate more noise and traffic and not be aesthetically pleasing. None of the options are appealing and more needs to be done to utilize transportation alternatives or we will all suffer from a new form of physical and visual gridlock. Careful presentation of the alternatives, with accurate visual depictions of all elements and cost estimates, needs to be presented to the community in the near term.


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