Editorials

8,300 vehicles at Hanford are thousands too many

Hanford traffic is a hassle. We've known that for years.

And now the Department of Energy has decided to do something about it.

We'd like to be happy about it, but coming from the federal agency that is supposed to be leading the way to a more energy-efficient future, the package of remedies are a huge disappointment.

In response to concerns about congestion, safety and reports of aggressive driving during commute hours on the nuclear reservation, DOE recently commissioned a traffic study.

Actions taken as a result include raising speed limits on the Hanford site and converting Route 4 South to a one-way road during peak times.

The moves are billed as a way to improve safety, not to reduce the travel time for Hanford workers. Apparently, shorter commutes are just a side effect, not the goal.

Turnouts and wider shoulders also will be created in some areas, which will give police a safer place to pull over drivers who still can't comply with the rules of the road. The changes are a "pilot project," and DOE wants to hear from employees about how well the changes are working.

What puzzles us is that these moves do nothing to reduce the number of cars on the roadway -- or to conserve energy.

With 8,300 vehicles passing through the security gates each day at Hanford, it seems like reducing the carbon footprint also would have been a concern to DOE.

That doesn't seem to be the case.

Buses or other forms of mass transit weren't even considered in the study. Nor were any other ideas for creating a greener way for workers to get to the site.

We'll acknowledge that security issues and other factors are likely to complicate efforts to restore Hanford bus service -- which ran for decades, by the way.

But the agency that figured out how to get the deadly radioactive sludge out of the K Basins can surely overcome any obstacles to an improved transit system.

The long commutes definitely pose a problem for workers. We know of folks who have a second car that gets good gas mileage to use just for their drives to and from Hanford.

Yes, the van pools are popular. But with 8,300 vehicles going out there every day, it sure seems like more could be done to get some of them off the road and ease drivers' tensions.

Did we mention that the changes only affect traffic on the nuclear site itself?

They do nothing for the poor sap who finds himself on the bypass highway or George Washington Way during the afternoon traffic from Hanford.

The traffic study did find that the beloved roundabouts we see all over town would be beneficial on the reservation.

DOE cited disruption from construction of the circles and the difficulty for large trucks to navigate the tight corners as reasons to reject the roundabout recommendation.

Mission Support Alliance has been instructed to begin work immediately on the improvements that were approved, and they are expected to be in place within a few months.

We certainly see the need to keep folks safe as they travel to and from their Hanford jobs. But we also see a need to keep more vehicles off the road and provide workers with less stressful modes of travel.

We expected more from folks who are in the business of energy.

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