By John Ramos

FAIRFAX (CBS SF) — Controversy over lines painted on the roadway has sparked a heated debate in the Marin County town of Fairfax where the line between perception and reality runs straight down Cascade Drive.

Much of Cascade Drive looks pretty normal: a broken yellow line separating the two lanes.  But in some areas, the road narrows and becomes a single lane.  Or does it?

“This has not been changed into a one-lane road.  But what has happened is, it feels that way,” said Fairfax Mayor Renee Goddard.

She lives on Cascade and says traffic often moves too fast on the narrow street with no shoulders and blind curves.  So, the Public Works Department erased the center line and painted a white line running along one side to make the road look narrower.  The line doesn’t actually MEAN anything, it was just meant to slow cars down.

But there was one problem. The Department of Public Works never told anyone they were going to do it, including the mayor.

“The communication, um, the communication, uh … there was a glitch in the communication and it was a gross error,” said Goddard, clearly annoyed at town staff.

That’s caused a lot of confusion.  Many drivers believe they are supposed to stay within the white line although legally they have full use of their side of the road.  Others see the white line as a newly-added bike and pedestrian lane.

“It feels that way?” Goddard asked a couple walking their dogs alongside the white line.  “So, that is part of the issue,” she told them,  “people are saying that’s a false sense of protection.”

Mark and Jane Knowles, who live in the neighborhood, say they don’t mind a bit of confusion if it makes drivers pay attention.

“I just think it makes more of a statement to the cars that there might be people walking on the road and you need to slow down,” Mark said.

But JoAnn Gable, who lives near the Mayor, says Fairfax’s surprise experiment in driver perception is actually causing Cascade Drive to be LESS safe.

“We need to go back to square one and there needs to be input from entire the community before anything else is done,” Gable said.  “I think it should absolutely be reversed right now.”

Mayor Goddard said she, too, would like a chance for the public to weigh in on the matter…which she says should have happened in the first place.  And it looks like they may get it.  The mayor says the town will form a subcommittee to study the issue before the holiday and intends to schedule a public discussion at the January 15th Council meeting.

“We have apologized profusely,” she said, “and we’ve called multiple meetings so that we can start to figure out what it is we’re going to do from here.”