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Sight Distance

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POLICY STATEMENT 90

SIGHT DISTANCE 

Prepared by:                          Laura Cove, Director, Department of Transportation and Facilities 

Adopted by Council:             10/30/14

Supersedes:                           2/11/93

Effective:                                10/30/14 

Purpose 

To provide guidance in implementing sight distance requirements found in the Code of Ordinances in order to provide an unobstructed view along streets, at intersections and driveways serving multi-family and non-residential property so as to permit control of vehicles in a manner to avoid collisions and increase safety along roadways.

Reference 

Sight distance requirements for streets within the corporate limits of the Town of Cary shall be in accordance with the Town Code of Ordinances Section 17-76 through 17-79, the Town of Cary Standard Specifications and Details manual and “A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets,” 1990 edition by AASHTO.  The Standard Procedure for “Sight Distance” shall be followed in reviewing and correcting sight distance problems. 

Definition 

Sight distance is the length of roadway visible to the driver who is traveling along the roadway or waiting to enter, cross or pass along the roadway.  The types of sight distance include intersection sight distance, stopping sight distance and passing sight distance as outlined in the Town Standard Specifications and Details manual. 

Coverage  

This policy shall be applicable within the corporate limits of the Town and shall be enforced along all Town maintained streets.  All new development within the Town’s extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction shall meet these requirements as a part of the plan approval process (see Section 15.1.7[e], Appendix A, Unified Development Ordinance). 

Policy 

The horizontal and vertical alignment of a street affects sight distance.  Objects such as buildings, fences, signs, walls, parked motor vehicles, cut slopes, shrubs, bushes, trees, flowers, plants and other objects within and outside of the right of way can also affect sight distance.  Some objects may be located within sight distance areas and not significantly obstruct the required visibility of the driver.  The driver may be able to see over, under or around some objects within sight distance areas. 

This policy shall be used in the evaluation of public safety with regard to sight distance in and adjacent to the public right of way within the Town of Cary and its extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction.  The policy shall regulate the design of new streets and the reconstruction of existing streets.  The policy shall also apply to street designs within the Town’s jurisdiction constructed by private developers.  It shall also apply to landscape improvements adjacent to new and existing streets. 

This policy is not intended to be applied without qualification to existing conditions.  To the extent deemed possible by the Town, existing facilities will be required to match these requirements.  The sight distance requirements presented in this policy are minimum requirements and should be increased where social, economic and environmental considerations allow. 

In situations where improvements fall under the jurisdiction of other governmental agencies, the standards prescribed by such agencies may be applied.  In such cases, the standards may be more stringent and may take priority over Town standards. 

Application 

Upon observation or notification of a sight distance obstruction, the Director of Public Works, or designee, shall investigate the situation to determine if, in fact, an obstruction does exist.  The Department of Transportation and Facilities may be contacted so as to establish the right of way and the sight distance required by the Town Standard Specifications and Details manual. 

1.         Obstructions Within Street Right of Way 

The Town of Cary shall be responsible for the correction of sight distance obstructions located within the right of way of Town maintained streets.  The N.C. Department of Transportation shall be notified by the Town regarding sight distance obstructions located within the right of way of State maintained roadways. 

The Town shall make a reasonable effort to notify an adjacent property owner of an obstruction within the street right of way prior to removal.  The Town shall attempt to provide a maximum period of time of 10 days for a property owner to remove an obstruction within the right of way which they placed there.  However, immediately following this time, the Town shall remove the unpermitted sight distance obstruction.  In situations in which a significant public safety danger exists, the Town may immediately remove the obstruction from the right of way without notice to the adjacent property owner.  

2.         Obstructions on Private Property 

The owner or person in possession of any property on which a sight distance obstruction exists shall be fully responsible for removal of such obstruction.  The Town, upon discovering or receiving a complaint of a sight distance obstruction which is on private property, shall notify the property owner of record by certified mail.  The notification shall describe the type of obstruction, location of the obstruction and the required sight distance for the location.  The letter shall clearly outline the sole liability of the private property owner should the sight distance obstruction not be brought into compliance with the Town Standard Specifications and Details manual.  

3.         Existing Conditions Along Public Streets and at Intersections 

The evaluation of adequate provision of sight distance shall generally conform to the requirements set forth in this policy.  It is recognized that in some cases existing conditions may exist that prevent the attainment of desirable sight distance due to social, economic, or environmental considerations.  In these cases, the maximum practical sight distance, up to the desirable values, shall be obtained.  In addition, where desirable sight distance is not attained, additional measures such as warning signs, reduced speed zones and other traffic controls may be imposed.  In all cases, the minimum provision of adequate stopping sight distance shall be provided. 

4.         Proposed Development and Construction 

The Department of Transportation and Facilities shall review all proposed plans for improvements such as site, subdivision, landscape and infrastructure plans, for adequacy and compliance with regard to sight distance in accordance with the Town Standard Specifications and Details manual.  The applicant or developer shall designate the sight distance areas and all existing or proposed objects within this area.  The plan must comply with all terms of this policy and the Town Standard Specifications and Details manual. 

The Construction Management Department shall inspect and enforce compliance with the sight distance requirements for all new construction. 

5.         Exceptions 

The requirements of this policy may not apply to all objects located within sight distance areas such that some objects may not significantly obstruct the required visibility of the driver.  The driver may be able to see over, under or around some objects within sight distance areas.  Objects that may be required within sight distance areas include fire hydrants, utility poles and traffic control devices which are located to minimize visual obstruction.  Other objects 12 inches in diameter and smaller, such as tree trunks and sign posts, may be allowed within sight distance areas if located individually or in combination so as to not substantially restrict the driver’s view.  The determination of what objects, if any, may be located within sight distance areas shall be made by the Director of the Department of Transportation and Facilities. 

Conditions existing within the Town’s B-1 Business District prior to the adoption of the ordinance revision (______ 1993) shall be exempt from these requirements, but shall, if practical, meet the requirements as a part of any site development or alteration.

Attachment A 

Subject:          Removal of Sight Distance Obstruction Within Right of Way

Dear ______: 

The Town of Cary Public Works Department has investigated a sight distance obstruction located within the street right of way at (location).  The obstruction consists of (description)

In accordance with the Town Code of Ordinances Section 17-76 and the Town Standard Specifications and Details manual, it has been determined that the aforementioned obstruction presents a problem to public safety.  Therefore, the Public Works Department has scheduled to remove the obstruction beginning on (date)

The Town will attempt to minimize the disruption during the removal of the sight obstruction.  Please feel free to contact (contact person)(title), at (telephone number) should you have any questions. 

In the interest of public safety, the Town appreciates your understanding of this situation and our efforts to reduce traffic accidents. 

Sincerely,  

(Name)

(Title) 

Attachment B 

District Engineer

N.C. Department of Transportation 

SUBJECT:     Request for Removal of Sight Obstruction  

Dear ______: 

The Town of Cary Public Works Department has investigated a sight distance obstruction located within the street right of way at (location).  The obstruction consists of (description). 

The Town’s investigation has determined that the aforementioned obstruction presents a potential problem to public safety.  Since the obstruction is located within the right of way of a State maintained roadway, the Town requests the N.C. Department of Transportation to remove the obstruction.  

The Town appreciates the assistance of the N.C. Department of Transportation with regard to this sight distance obstruction.  Should you have any questions or require additional information, please feel free to contact me at (telephone number). 

Sincerely, 

(Name) 

(Title) 

Attachment C

Registered Mail 

SUBJECT:     Removal of Sight Distance Obstruction on Private Property 

Dear ______: 

The Town of Cary Public Works Department has investigated a sight distance obstruction located on private property at (location).  The obstruction consists of (description). 

In accordance with the Town Code of Ordinances Section 17-77 and the Town Standard Specifications and Details manual, it has been determined that the aforementioned obstruction may present a problem to public safety.  The attached sketch designates the sight distance requirements at this location.  Since the obstruction is located on private property, the property owner is responsible for removal of the sight distance obstruction.  Therefore, this hazardous condition should be corrected immediately. 

This letter shall serve as official notice of the sight distance obstruction.  In the event the obstruction causes an accident, the Town will not be legally responsible, since the sight obstruction is located on private property.  Further, the injured party(s) may attempt to hold you liable for their damages.  Please feel free to contact (contact person), (title) at (telephone number) if you have any questions. 

In the interest of public safety, the Town appreciates your understanding of this situation and our efforts to reduce traffic accidents.  

Sincerely, 

(Name) 

(Title)