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From The Publisher February 1998 Not too long ago I had the great fortune of visiting both the Yosemite Valley and the Kings Canyon National Park, where, outside of a couple patches of mildew in Minnesota and Washington, live two of the largest living entities on earth. Now, if you're a Southerner it may irk you to know that these wondrous beings are named after two of the Union's greatest generals, General Sherman and General Grant. But that's another story for another issue. (Watch for next months "Parks" issue.) The reason I'm writing about this excursion now is because we drove from our home in Orange County, up to Yosemite, through the Yosemite Valley, out to Kings Canyon, then across the state to San Luis Obispo down the Coast and back through the heart of LA to home. Believe me we saw a whole lot of roadways on that trip. But none were quite as long as the short little road called the 245 connecting the Giant Sequoias with the little town of Visalia. On the map the 245 looks like a straight shot down the mountain, ending at the main artery of the township. In reality it was a 10 to 20 mile-an-hour rollercoaster through some of the prettiest country in the state. Unfortunately as the driver I spent all of my time twisting the wheel and watching for oncoming traffic (there were 15 cars that came the other way in the 90 minutes it took to travel the 27 miles.) Which leads us to the purpose of this column . . . . Roadway Design. The 245 exhibited pretty well the full gambit of roadway design in that there were scenic arenas where the road itself was camouflaged by line-of-site deviations, ample landscape (although very little was man-made), traffic slowing and traffic discouraging twists and turns, drops into valleys that took your breath away, riverside parallels that gave you the chance for pondering, old world bridges, and a fair number of houses scattered along the way. Now, if the designer's intent was to keep traffic to a minimum, they accomplished this by making the twists, turns, undulations et al, absolutely unpredictable. This made driving the 245 a tiring experience with little opportunity for the driver to enjoy the magnificent surroundings and many opportunities for the car to run off the road or slam into oncoming traffic with the slightest loss of concentration. Granted, highway design can be used to slow, direct, and influence the driver into unalterable patterns of safety and speed. However, if the plan was devised to regulate, as opposed to minimalize, traffic, this opportunity was lost to over abundance. A Landscape Architect has the opportunity to lead the design of a highway or rural road, and to incorporate these irregularities in such a manner as to allow the driver a chance to enjoy the drive while accomplishing the task of regulating traffic. I learned a lot on this 245 . . . for instance, if you put a switch back immediately after an undulation, you increase the chance of sending the driver off the road; if you have too many undulations in a farm-oriented region, you risk the sudden appearance of livestock in the road; if you choose to incorporate "S" turns in a wooded area, you increase the chance that a little Porsche-type car will try to cut all the corners without proper knowledge of what lies ahead . . .. In any event there were many areas along this road that would have benefited from a good amount of dynamite as opposed to maintaining a gradual grade along the mountains edge. I guess one would have to weigh the cost/benefits of a straighter path with side banks vs. more curves and less earth disruption. If there is a moral to this story, I guess it would have be that when designing a roadway it is not only important to worry about directing traffic and maintaining the natural surroundings, but it is also important, at least if Landscape Architects want to incorporate roadway design into their mix of responsibility, to make sure that drivers are allowed to enjoy the landscape and the experience as well . . . and if you ever make it to the Kings Canyon National Park and want to test your driving skills in some truly wonderful country keep your eye out for the good ole' 245 . . . .

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June 18, 2019, 9:03 pm PDT

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