Speed humps fuel emotions from residents
by Rachel Miller
July 07, 2013 01:04 AM | 3945 views | 15 15 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Speed humps: A single city transportation initiative resulting in the largest amount of outcry from residents to City Council members and requiring the most attention from the Public Works Department.

Councilman Johnny Sinclair said he talks to residents about traffic calming at least three times every week.

“Quality of life issues have become very important,” Sinclair said. “People don’t want their kids to be trapped in their backyard.”

Sinclair represents neighborhoods bordering the downtown area that he says has the biggest problem with “cut-through traffic,” or commuters driving through residential areas to avoid gridlock.

The question of whether or not to install a series of 3-inch high humps that are 22 feet wide has pitted neighbor against neighbor, and homeowners against homeowners association boards.

On Wednesday, the City Council will decide whether to authorize a new round of balloting to begin, with this batch targeting Reynolds Street, which can be used to cut from Whitlock Avenue to Powder Springs Street.

According to the most recent traffic-calming data, Reynolds Street has 1,730 cars passing by each day,

with an average speed of 39 mph in a 25 mph zone.

On the same list for approval is Brookwood Drive which connects Whitlock Avenue to Kirkpatrick Dive, and Gresham Road, which is a three quarter-mile dead-end street near Six Flags White Water.

Traffic delays

The speed tabling process first became an issue when voters approved a one-cent special purpose local option sales tax March 15, 2011 to fund transportation improvement projects in Marietta and Cobb County.

Before the SPLOST funding, residents of a street or neighborhood were responsible for paying for the installation of a speed hump, which resulted in very few projects, City Engineer Jim Wilgus said.

With an average cost of $1,000 per speed humps, and multiple humps installed for each speed tabling project, Wilgus said there is enough funding to last for years.

The first set of speed tabling was installed in the southern portion of Hickory Hills neighborhood, near the city-owned golf course.

“I think that the impact has been pretty significant as far as reduction of speed,” said Glenn Luckett, boardmember on the Hickory Hills Homeowners Association Board.

Although the area has successfully made it through the entire speed tabling process before, possible projects on two other roads in the neighborhood are at a standstill.

Votes by residents on whether to install speed humps on Hickory Drive and Woodvalley Drive have been returned, but the City Council has ordered that the ballots remain sealed.

Woodvalley Drive may not meet the criteria for traffic calming because a study showed the road has more than 3,000 vehicles driving through a day. That would be above the limit to qualify, according to Marietta’s speed hump policy.

The council has asked for another study on the traffic volume along Woodvalley Drive.

Wrong way

This confusion by the City Council on the exact steps to take with traffic calming has many residents crying foul.

Luckett said he is not promoting a certain outcome for the 450 homeowners in his 40-year-old subdivision.

But, Luckett said he is concerned that without a clear process to follow, it is impossible to get an accurate picture of what the neighborhood desires.

“What is the right way to do it?” Luckett asked.

Lisa Schneiderman, of Russett Court, said the City Council has been reactionary to each challenge of the speed tabling policy, causing constant changes to the requirements.

Schneiderman built her home 24 years ago in the Lee’s Crossing subdivision, across from Kennesaw Memorial Cemetery off Whitlock Avenue, when the neighborhood was in its final development stage.

She lives on the back end of the complex and drives down a mile-long residential road to get out of her neighborhood.

The entrance road, Lees Trace, could be approved for installation of speed tables at Wednesday’s City Council meeting if the recently returned ballots are approved.

Schneiderman said more than 68 percent of the 285 ballots were returned by homeowners, which is well above the 51 percent required by the policy.

Sixty percent of the votes were in favor of speed humps, which is the minimum needed if a neighborhood is governed by a home owners association. If a street is not represented by a board, the minimum approval rate is 70 percent.

The outcome would not be upsetting to Schneiderman, except the four votes that pushed the approval over the top came from extra ballots given to the Lee’s Crossing Homeowners Association Board of Directors.

Although only one vote is allowed per property, a homeowners association represents any taxable lots that are not occupied, such as the Lee’s Crossings swimming pool, tennis court, clubhouse, and green spaces that are managed by the HOA.

Slippery road

Last week, Schneiderman wrote a letter to the homeowners in Lee’s Crossing about her frustration with the homeowners association swaying the determination with “community lot” votes.

She said the City Council was “out maneuvered” by her HOA, who pushed the subdivision through loopholes the council was willing to widen. This includes decreasing the approval needed from 70 to 60 percent, which was changed before Lee’s Crossing was balloted.

“Policies like this need to be figured out before you start them,” Schneiderman said.

The speed tabling process was set up over two years ago by the City Council, but the qualifications were immediately adjusted when only three roads in the city met the parameters.

Now, the qualifications for a residential road is that the speed limit must be below 30 mph, with no more than an 8 degree incline and few curves.

Sinclair said the requirements are starting to overrule the safety concerns raised by citizens, and that since the council created the criteria for the ordinance, they should be able to make exceptions.

Wilgus said the process is confusing “because the rules keep changing.”

The first step is the City receives a written request, by letter or email, for traffic calming on a street.

If authorized by the City Council, traffic data will be collected over a 24 hour period.

The report must show that 95 percent of cars travel at a speed at least 5 mph above the limit, or 85 percent of cars traveling at 15 mph above the limit.

Priorities are given for roads near schools, parks and bus stops, or that have a high rate of accidents, Wilgus said.

Road map

After reaching that metric, the Council must instruct the Public Works Department to design a plan of where to install the speed tabling and start balloting property owners in a specific area to tabulate support or opposition to the speed humps.

The Public Works Department holds a public meeting near each location, and property owners are given 60 days to return their votes.

Wilgus said the Public Works Department can ballot three to four locations at a time. Out of a list of 74 approved areas, some have been waiting for more than a year.

At a City Council meeting May 29, Sinclair said about the long list, “I am tired of putting them off.”

Six streets, as well as roads within Carriage Oaks subdivision, are currently out for a vote, with results due between mid-July and mid-August, Wilgus said.

Wilgus, the City Transportation Engineer and a city clerk validate each vote based on the address listed on the top of the form, count the results and seal the ballots.

The results are not revealed until the next City Council meeting, Wilgus said.

Results for Whitlock Drive, South Woodland Drive and North Hillcrest Drive will be given Wednesday.

After the ballots are verified, they are sealed so that the public cannot know how specific property owners voted.

At June’s City Council meeting, City Attorney Doug Haynie said the measure is a protection afforded by the Voting Rights Act. Councilman Phillip Goldstein disagreed that such a protection exists and thinks the ballots are subject to the Open Records Act.

Detour

On Wednesday, Mayor Steve Tumlin will seek to suspend the current speed hump policy and hold all activities in order to review and revise the language for “clarity, definitiveness, completeness, conclusiveness and reasonableness.”

The item listed on the agenda also proposes creating a committee to be chaired by Tumlin, and include Councilman Jim King and Goldstein, to present recommendations at the August City Council meeting.

Wilgus said despite the heated public meetings before speed tables are approved for an area, there are “no negative comments” once speed humps are installed.

Schneiderman admits “there is no way to get around” a speed bump, unlike stop signs where drivers can just “blow through.”

But Schneiderman said speed humps cause wear and tear on a car day after day, and that a greater police presence or a sign that displays a the speed as a vehicle passes could be other options.

“Unless (city council members) hear from citizens from Lee’s Crossing and all over Marietta, they will continue to react to the small, but squeaky wheels that are calling for speed tables in our neighborhoods,” Schneiderman said.

Comments
(15)
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Common sense
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July 27, 2013
Whitlock Rd. needs to be widened. The amount of traffic on a daily basis doesn't match the size of the road. Anyone against this is just ignorant and/or letting emotions or politics get in the way. This has been an issue that some people fight against for no logical reason. I am completely in favor of preserving Marietta's small town roots/look, but the right solution is the right solution regardless of emotion. As far as speed humps go; wise up people, this won't solve anything, but I promise it will waste money better spent on an actual solution. The real question is do the people that will ultimately decide want the logical solution?
Readmopaper
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July 11, 2013
Does Marietta employ any traffic engineers, or just Dreamers, sorry, Planners?

Is there a traffic study? Speed measurement? I agree that people on foot seem to think cars are faster than reality, especially when walking in the street.

I have heard in the past that studies have shown that drivers often drive FASTER between bumps, stop signs and other "traffic calmers" to make up for the lost time. Human nature is what it is.
Lee's Crossing Resid
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July 11, 2013
I am proud to say that I have raised 4 children and am currently raising grandchildren and never ONCE, did I have to ask the City Government to help me do my job! I'm tired of hearing about the children. You had them, it is YOUR responsibility to take care of THEM!!
Salleigh
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July 08, 2013
I lived on the corner of Maxwell Ave. and Rambo Pl. for 12 years. I raised two children at this location. Cut through traffic was always an issue. My kids were not held hostage in their backyard. My kids rode their bikes and roller bladed and walked to friends homes. They were taught to use caution. We had a rule that the kids were not allowed to be in the street during rush hour. Common Sense. I think we've become this society that is looking toward rules, regulations, speed bumps or whatever to keep us and our loved ones safe. It's getting ridiculous. There are no absolutes no matter how much money is spent or regulations are enacted. There always the drunk driver, inexperienced teen or just plain reckless driver to consider. Even if the speed bumps are installed, it is not a guarantee.
olVern
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July 07, 2013
Want to immediately lower your property value in an already declining market?? Want to wait extra time for emergency services from police, fire etc to navigate the barriers to you?? Vote for speed humps...you just might die waiting.
oh please
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July 08, 2013
Dramatic much? Please provide examples where property values dropped as a result of installing speed humps, and where someone died as a result of emergency vehicles not making it to someone in time strictly due to speed humps.
MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
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July 07, 2013
We are turning into a "Baby On board" Civilization. In other words, watch out for me, because I'm simply too stupid to take care of myself!

1. To begin with, children have no place in the street. Has any heard of "Parenting"?

2. Proper police enforcement of speed limits would eliminate the need for such "bumps".

Freyer Drive
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July 08, 2013
1) No. No one has ever heard of parenting. Ever. Most parents encourage their kids to play in the street with complete disregard for traffic and safety.

2)Full-time police enforcement of speed limits at each of the countless speeder cut-through areas is neither a cost effective nor efficient use of your tax dollars. Franlky, I'm surprised you offered this solution.

Fed UP
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July 08, 2013
Amen and Amen!!!

Rick Z
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July 07, 2013
I've driven on some of the streets mentioned in this article, as I like to use Tumlin Park occasionally. There's not much traffic, and the stop signs and the narrowness of the streets keep it well under control. NIMBYs often exaggerate or invent traffic problems to try to turn their neighborhoods into private preserves.

But the root of the problem for neighborhoods adjacent to Whitlock is that the city's failure to improve Whitlock pushes drivers into alternatives through neighborhood streets.
Citizen Sane
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July 07, 2013
Once the child is struck by the speeding car, the "bell" cannot be unrung. If the driver is a human being with or without children, but with a conscience and a sense of responsibility towards others---he/she will NEVER fully recover from the sights and sounds of that moment. If seriously injured, neither will the child or the parents, or the extended family and friends. The prevention of this situation is worth all the springs and shock absorbers on all the cars I have ever owned. I don't write this because I have hit a child with my car----I have not. If the speed bumps can help prevent one child's injury---then bump me.
Gringo Bandito
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July 08, 2013
Following your logic, we should just all stop driving completely. Think of all of the tragedies that could be averted.
Paulding problem
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July 07, 2013
I have lived in West Cobb for 22 years and Dallas Highway to Whitlock has been an issue for about 15 of those years. Paulding County traffic has created our traffic problems to the maximum. Over 50% of the traffic coming from West Cobb is Pualding County traffic and personally believe we need a toll coming into Cobb County during rush hour from 5:30-8:00 am and 3:00-6:00pm. The county created the Barrett Parkway to ease traffic to 285 and now the Windy Hill connector. Windy Hill is 45 miles per hour with too many lights to count. Nether alleviated traffic from Paulding County. This is what happens when you over populate areas with out thinking of the consequences of caused by the growth of areas.
Jaime Hills
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July 08, 2013
As a resident of Paulding, I can tell you that West Cobb is much more developed and populated than Paulding. Paulding residents go in all directions, not just down Dallas Hwy. Arewe supposed to just stay in Paulding because Cobb has short sighted development issues too? Dallas/ Whitlock has been a problem for as long as I can remember.
Eric Siefferman
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July 07, 2013
It would be nice to have one on Irquois Dr, Etowah Dr and Siminole Dr. We have had neighbors have to jump off their curbs to avoid being hit by cars cutting through.
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