Right-of-way peeve

December 2008 » Columns
I’m not a traffic engineer, but the photographs in this article illustrate one of my pet peeves: abuse of the appropriate use of public or semi-public right-of-way. The photographs were taken on an often heavily traveled county road near where I play bridge (the card game, not the civil engineering structure) about four days a week. While this frequent entertainment is one benefit of semi-retirement, it also keeps my mind refreshed and eager to write columns such as this one.
Alfred R. Pagan, P.E.

I’m not a traffic engineer, but the photographs in this article illustrate one of my pet peeves: abuse of the appropriate use of public or semi-public right-of-way. The photographs were taken on an often heavily traveled county road near where I play bridge (the card game, not the civil engineering structure) about four days a week. While this frequent entertainment is one benefit of semi-retirement, it also keeps my mind refreshed and eager to write columns such as this one.


When leaving the bridge club, I sometimes exit the parking lot via a side road and then onto the main county road. At the point where I enter the county road, a bus stop shelter has stood for as long as I can remember. At one time, this shelter had transparent glass on three sides to protect bus passengers without obstructing traffic sightlines. Drivers could easily see the main road traffic through the structure when exiting the low-volume side road. Conversely, when traveling on the county road, any traffic exiting the side road was easily visible.


Recently, however, a sign appeared covering one side of the shelter—"Your Ad Here, $8.00 per day"—making it difficult for a motorist exiting the side street to enter the much busier highway. Subsequently, an equally obstructive advertisement replaced the sign.

The two pictures illustrate the problem. If a motorist traveling east on the county road is not alert, the sight of a vehicle exiting from the secondary road is obstructed. Also, a vehicle exiting from the side road does not have a clear view of faster traffic coming from the left.

There is something wrong with obstructing highway sight lines for commercial purposes. I’m not certain as to the exact location of the property line. It is possible that the edge of the obstructing shelter sign is outside the road right-of-way and actually on private property. However, that doesn’t make it acceptable to cut down on drivers’ sight distance. Also, it is likely that there is a site setback line in effect, which should influence what can be constructed so close to the traveled way. It is especially appropriate that a setback line be invoked at a location so critical to the safety of the driving public.

I have observed the same type of bus passenger structures scattered throughout the area. It is clear that the unobstructed glass shelters are much more conducive to traffic safety, which was perhaps one of the goals in their original design. There should be a law—if there isn’t already—against placing revenue-raising obstructions in dangerous locations within or too close to public rights-of-way.


Alfred R. Pagan, P.E., is a consulting engineer in Hackensack, N.J. He can be reached at 201-441-9719; or e-mail him at pagan@cenews.com.


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