Neighborhoods bordering the downtown area along Whitlock Avenue have dealt with commuters cutting through streets to avoid gridlock, causing numerous requests to the council for solutions.
Voters approved a 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax March 15, 2011, to fund transportation improvement projects in the city and Cobb County. The project has $385,000 in remaining funds from the original $400,000.
On Wednesday, the council unanimously approved reducing the speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph on 36 residential streets, most of which are about 0.3 miles long. The new signs will be placed within the next two weeks, City Engineer Jim Wilgus said.
These stretches include a long portion of Arden Drive near Fair Oaks Park from Powder Springs Street to Bellemeade Drive, as well as short blocks off Polk Street on Evelyn Street and Forest Lane.
The council has a number of methods for slowing down traffic, some that do not require a permanent change to a road, and speed-limit reductions “is a good place to start,” Councilwoman Annette Lewis said.
“It is the easiest thing to address,” and if there are still problems then the council can add other mechanisms, Lewis said.
A city ordinance restricts speed humps to roads that are posted as 25 mph or less, so the 36 streets that were once ineligible can now be considered for speed-hump installation.
Wilgus said city staff will retest the traffic on the roads after the speed limit change for the amount of infractions and present the results to the council.
Policy changes slow speed hump approvals
Two years ago, the council recognized speeding as a safety concern and tried to base what roads received speed humps on whether or not the installation had majority support from residents in the immediate area.
But after a balloting process divided neighborhoods, the City Council halted the process in July so the policy could be streamlined.
The new policy allows for petitions that will give input from residents without binding the council to a neighborhood vote.
Eleven streets, including the Carriage Oaks subdivision where Dallas Highway becomes Whitlock Avenue, were in the middle of the balloting process with results due between mid-July and mid-August.
On Wednesday, the council voted 6-1 with Councilman Philip Goldstein opposed, to continue the balloting process for these specific roads.
“We are trying to make it known to citizens that did not return a ballot, that they can still turn one in if they want to,” Wilgus said.
Goldstein said he was against restarting in the middle of the process and not under the new policy.
“There are differing standards being applied, which is not fair to one group or the other,” Goldstein said.
The deadline for returning votes will be determined next week and published on the city website.
Wilgus said he expects Arden Drive has more than the required 50 percent of ballots returned, and Heathersett Drive and Sugar Springs Drive to be the first to be opened.
Speeding on the city’s radar
The council approved installing three speed humps and two radar signs over the next month in the Lee’s Crossing subdivision, across from Kennesaw Memorial Cemetery, as well as two radar signs on Maple Avenue west of the 120 Loop.
A decision about placing speed humps on Lees Trace was postponed in July after the required 60 percent approval by the neighborhood relied on the home owners association board casting an extra four votes for vacant lots in the subdivision.
Wednesday, the vote was 5-1-1, with Goldstein opposed and Lewis abstaining. Lewis said in eight years of being on the council, she has only abstained twice.
Goldstein, who supported the previous policy that allowed for a neighborhood vote, said “it would have been better to try something less invasive first, such as speed signs.”
City staff originally suggested five locations for speed humps in Lee’s Crossing, but the number was reduced to three based on a suggestion by Councilman Grif Chalfant.
Chalfant said with the controversy over the policy and contention within the subdivision, it was best to compromise on a lesser amount that would focus the speed humps near A.L. Burruss Elementary and radar signs at the entrances.
The council approved Aug. 17 to purchase 20 radar signs for $79,500 using the 2011 SPLOST funds.
Lewis said her concern was that the placement has not been studied by city staff for its effectiveness, and placing the speed humps could move the traffic problems to surrounding streets.
Wilgus said after the speed humps are installed there would be another traffic study and the radar signs will also report back information on continued speeding.