Midtown Raleigh News

Traffic-calming plan for Rainwater Road causes tension

Traffic calming isn’t the only calming needed on Rainwater Road.

About 65 people attended a meeting Monday night to discuss the city’s plans for slowing cars on Rainwater, a problem spot for speeding.

But the session quickly turned into an argument between supporters who like the idea of adding medians and curb extensions to the street, and others who prefer less intrusive measures.

“It turned more into more of a conversation…up or down about the whole project,” said Eric Lamb, the city’s transportation planning manager. “We didn’t get the location-specific feedback we hoped to receive.”

The plan, expected to cost $400,000 on a stretch from Spring Forest Road to Hunting Ridge Road, calls for adding curb extensions and medians in seven spots.

The current speed limit is 30 mph, but there is “very poor speed compliance,” said Jed Niffenegger, a city traffic planner.

“I really think those that are dead set against it came out tonight,” said Jim Lassiter, a resident of Tealbriar Drive, which connects to Rainwater Road.

The neighborhood is drawing more families with children who have to cross the road, Lassiter said. The city’s design is decent, but it might need a little adjustment, he said.

Traffic-calming projects are a touchy subject in many Raleigh neighborhoods. Residents, not city staffers, must go door-to-door to collect signatures. And neighborhoods must get least three-fourths of homeowners along a route to agree to a project before it can start.

Past projects have been successful, city officials say, with traffic slowing down on average between 3 and 8 mph.

But reaching agreement on how to change a street tends to be a contentious undertaking.

Not much was accomplished Monday night, said Michael Davis, who lives off Rainwater Road. Though Davis opposes the proposed changes, he said that he understands the city’s rationale.

“Everything they’re working on is backed by numbers,” Davis said. “Personally, I’m willing to live with what we have (rather) than traffic calming.”

Opponents said they’re worried that school buses and larger cars and trucks will have trouble on narrower lanes. New landscaping could make it harder to see. And teens may be tempted to drive recklessly as they navigate the obstacles.

Lamb said road designers took these factors into account.

The city will handle landscaping in the medians, though a homeowners association can choose to voluntarily take over. Trees and plants on curb extensions are the responsibility of neighboring property owners.

Some residents said the city ought to just install stop signs and maybe a few speed humps.

“I’d love to do just stop signs,” Lamb said. “It’d be substantially cheaper but it’s not effective. I wish it was that easy. If it was, I would put signs out there tomorrow.”

According to previous studies done by the city, stop signs will stop drivers at the site, but they speed up afterward to make up for lost time.

Since drivers already disregard the posted speed limit, lowering the limit wouldn’t make a difference, Niffenegger said.

Speed humps are only a last resort since they slow the response time of fire trucks and ambulances, Lamb said.