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EDITORIAL

Switch highway back to four lanes

The people are speaking and a vast majority, it appears, wants the section of Yakima Valley Highway that runs through Sunnyside converted back into the four-lane roadway it once was.

The Daily Sun News throws its collective voice in with those who seek a return to normalcy.

It wasn't the Sunnyside City Council who made the decision late last year to change the highway from four lanes to the present two lanes with a center-turn lane. That decision, for whatever reason, was made by just one person.

The consequences of that action, to put it bluntly, have been one huge mess. Because of the inadequate striping on the roadway, motorists to this day are unsure where they are supposed to drive. Based on almost daily accounts, it's not uncommon to witness motorists passing the vehicle ahead of them on the right side of the roadway. Left-hand turns are being made from the thru-lane nearly as frequently as from the center-turn lane.

Granted, a fresh coat of paint when striping crews get to work on that section of roadway this spring will alleviate many of these problems. New striping paint, however, won't soothe the general consensus that the highway needs to have two thru-lanes of traffic flowing each direction.

Sunnyside motorists use Yakima Valley Highway to quickly get from one part of the city to another. At least, we used to. Now, the highway has been transformed into a side street, of sorts, where it's not all that uncommon to get stuck behind a motorist traveling 15 or 20 mph, instead of the posted 35 mph speed limit. Four lanes of traffic would allow for the slower motorists to stick to the right-hand lane, while those obeying the 35 mph speed limit would have the left-hand lane to use to quickly get to where they're going.

City staff, in recommending to the city council recently that the highway remains one lane of traffic each direction, cite pedestrian safety concerns should the roadway be returned to four lanes. Bottom line is, converting the highway from two lanes to four lanes doesn't increase the traffic...the same number of vehicles will traverse the roadway. Switching from two lanes to four lanes does not broaden the width of the roadway, either. It's the same distance across that pedestrians must walk to reach the other side.

Pedestrian safety, instead, might be addressed by installing flashing lights and obvious striped areas at all crosswalks. More importantly, local law enforcement needs to take a proactive stance and make it a priority to regularly patrol all crosswalks, and ticket all motorists who fail to yield to pedestrians.

In ruling that Yakima Valley Highway will remain one lane of traffic in each direction, the Sunnyside City Council obviously weighed the advice of city staff in reaching a decision. And rightly so, because one of the main reasons we elect people to the council is to research the issues at hand and make an informed decision.

There are times, however, when the city council should weigh what the vast majority of the populace wants. One such example is when city staff not too long ago wanted to explore the possibility of privatizing the city's ambulance service. Local residents turned out in force and informed council that despite any cost savings that might be found, they were not willing to part with the quality of service the Sunnyside Fire Department has been providing for years.

This, appears, to be another one of those times when the people of Sunnyside are speaking out.

Four lanes of traffic on Yakima Valley Highway has proven to be both effective and safe for many, many years. The Sunnyside City Council needs to rethink this issue, and act accordingly.

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