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As traffic grows heavier on Raleighs main roads, neighborhood streets look more attractive as shortcuts. That prompts residents to seek city leaders help in slowing speeders.
Raleigh sets the bar high for constructing traffic-calming measures such as speed humps and mini traffic circles 75 percent of the residents on a street have to sign a petition supporting the idea. Even so, nearly every project draws fire from neighbors and drivers who say the devices are designed wrong or simply arent needed.
The city council will likely have a contentious hearing Tuesday on the latest proposals. One targets North Raleighs Rainwater Road, a popular shortcut to Millbrook High School, from Spring Forest Road to Hunting Ridge Road. The second focuses on Glascock Street between Brookside Drive and North Raleigh Boulevard, northeast of downtown.
If you go
The Raleigh City Council will discuss final designs for traffic-calming projects on Rainwater Road and Glascock Street during its meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 222 W. Hargett St.
The city’s transportation planning department will hold a workshop for a project on Milburnie Road at 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at Lions Park Community Center, 516 Dennis Ave.
The city has already held two public workshops on the projects; Tuesdays meeting will review the final design before the council votes. If the projects goes ahead, dont look for speed bumps or stop signs: traffic engineers have more creative plans for the two streets.
Speed humps are typically a last resort, and theyre reserved for streets where we dont have the means to do the horizontal devices, said Eric Lamb, the citys transportation planning manager.
Horizontal devices include new medians down the center of the street, extended portions of the curb into the road as well as mini traffic circles. The idea is that drivers will slow down to safely pass the obstacles and narrower sections.
On Glascock Street, the design calls for narrowing the road to add sidewalks without cutting into front yards. Its the first time Raleigh has narrowed entire blocks for traffic calming, Lamb said.
Rainwater Road already has sidewalks, so measures there would include medians, curb extensions and possibly a traffic circle. The proposal has divided surrounding neighborhoods, with a public hearing last summer drawing about 65 people. Some opposed the entire project, while others said theyd prefer to see other options such as stop signs and speed humps. Speakers also worried that buses and larger vehicles might struggle on a narrower road, and landscaped medians could reduce visibility.
Speed humps can also be a lightning rod for criticism. The city recently installed them on several residential streets near North Hills, and drivers question the design process.
Bob Wood occasionally drives Shelley Road near Six Forks Road, where seven speed humps were installed on a 0.7-mile stretch. The citys standard is 3.5-inch-high humps, designed for a comfortable ride at 20 to 25 mph, Lamb said. But Wood is skeptical.
If you go over them at 25, youre going to be bouncing all over your car, he said. I dont have a problem with the city slowing the traffic down, but what theyve done is ridiculous.
Wood said he thinks additional stop signs are a better option, but Lamb says they dont work.
Stop signs typically are not effective in terms of speed reduction, Lamb said. The problem with stop signs is theyre really good at the specific intersection, but in between intersections people tend to speed up to compensate for lost time.
A few blocks south of Shelley, Northbrook Road also got speed humps recently. A longtime resident there wrote that he doesnt see the need, because speeding isnt an issue, and no accidents have occurred.
Residents get say
Northbrook has three speed humps around Brooks Elementary, while Shelley got seven. Thats because residents vote on the number and location of the devices during public hearings, said Tom Fiorello, the citys traffic-calming coordinator. Each hump costs about $3,000 to install, plus signage and pavement markings.
Because they live on the streets, they knew where the hotspots were, Fiorello said. That is why every street has a different number.
Wood said adding speed humps just pushes the traffic elsewhere. He thinks drivers seeking a cut-through will move a block south to Cranbrook Road. Homeowners there are already petitioning to get speed humps too.
After Tuesdays meeting, more traffic-calming projects such as Cranbrook are still in the planning stages. The city will hold a public workshop for an initiative on Milburnie Road east of Raleigh Boulevard on Feb. 11. And city officials are working with a number of neighborhoods on smaller projects such as speed humps. Those areas include Bennett Street, the north end of Cardinal Grove Boulevard, Carlton Drive, Cranbrook Road, Delany Drive, the south end of North King Charles Road, Northwood Drive and Whitehall Avenue.