Residents upset about measures to deter speeding drivers in their neighborhoods told a city council committee on Wednesday that proposed changes to the traffic management program should go much further.
Eight residents from various city neighborhoods spoke before the committee about their concerns, a greatest hits of sorts from the places where the traffic calming process has been particularly contentious in recent years.
Among their concerns: the effect of speed humps on emergency vehicles, invalid petition signatures and the lack of access to the approval and design process for residents who travel a street but don’t have property directly on it.
In some cases, the process has divided the neighborhood based on who does and does not want the traffic calming measures.
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“It’s turned into ‘us versus them,’ which is really sad,” said Deb Johnson, who lives in the Laurel Hills neighborhood.
The city’s traffic management program is designed to deal with speeding problems. If the city identifies a street as eligible for features such as speed humps or medians, then 75 percent of residents must sign a petition to initiate the design process.
City staff has proposed adding an appeal process of sorts to the program. The changes would allow 75 percent of residents to petition to stop the design process or to remove the features that already have been installed.
The committee decided not to send the recommendations to the full council just yet but to wait until city staff can consider the residents’ input.
Councilman Wayne Maiorano said the residents have raised issues that deserve further consideration. He urged them to keep in mind, though, that staff members, who often get an earful from residents, are working diligently to implement a policy the council sets.
“This is a very emotionally charged issue for many people. It can cause frustration and aggravation,” he said. “Here’s what I would tell you: That frustration and aggravation should be directed at us. We’re the council. We set the policy.”
Turnout at the meeting was particularly high among residents of Laurel Hills, where a traffic calming proposal currently in the design phase has divided the neighborhood. Laurel Hills Drive is a long loop road with spokes of smaller streets. The residents on the side streets have to travel Laurel Hills to get out of their neighborhood.
Johnson presented the council with a list of recommendations about how to improve the process, including to require approval after a design is complete, to find ways to ensure signatures are valid and from property owners only and to include neighbors whose only access to their home is from a project street in the petition process.
Councilman John Odom said that at the very least residents do need to have a clearer understanding of how the process works and what the design could look like.
“Obviously from what we’ve just heard there needs to be more clarity of how we present that so people understand where we are and what we’re doing,” he said.