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Article Title: Traffic Calming Experiment in Meadow to be Constructed in Coming WeeksEdition: August 2001
Category: City Government
Author: Jake Brown
From Woosh! to Shhh
Come this fall, traffic should simmer down a bit in Montpelier's Meadow neighborhood.
Crews will install Montpelier's first dedicated "traffic calming devices" in the neighborhood between Elm Street and Hubbard Park to slow traffic. The "devices" include road humps and raised intersections.
The city, which is getting increased complaints from other neighborhoods about more and faster traffic, will watch the Meadow experiment closely to see if similar measures would work in other parts of Montpelier. (The city's roundabout at Keck Circle, while not designed solely to calm traffic, has that effect, too.)
"Speeding and traffic in our neighborhoods has become a pervasive issue over the past 3 to 4 years," said City Manager William Fraser during a recent interview. He said the issue of traffic calming has become one of the hottest concerns among city managers across the country, and he noted that during recent conferences of the International City Managers Association traffic calming has been one of the top three issues.
"It has ballooned and has become a major issue" for many cities, he said.
Meanwhile in Montpelier, Meadow residents like Ed McSweeney are hoping the new techniques will simply get people to lighten up on the gas.
McSweeney, who lives on Pearl Street, has spearheaded the effort to get the city to address speeding in the area. He noted the Meadow is full of families, but because many of the houses have very small yards kids play in the normally quiet street during the summer. The occasional speeders whizzing through give parents heart failure. McSweeney said that in recent years some young people -- at least once a day -- have been whipping down his street, which he called a "straightaway" as fast as 50 or 60 miles per hour. He also said that more mature drivers have sped through as well, doing 35 to 45. There are no posed speeds in the Meadow, but the neighborhood is thickly settled. A section of busier Elm Street that is adjacent is posted at 25 mph.
"It was a frightening situation," said McSweeney, who has two young children. "I'd hear people yell at speeders from their porches and residents started talking about the problem." That lead McSweeney to develop a petition asking the city for help in slowing the traffic. Fifty people in the Meadow signed on. That was 2 years ago.
Wait and SeeNow, as the city prepares to install the measures, residents are holding their collective breaths, hoping the measures work. And people are crossing their fingers the devices don't change the feel of the historic neighborhood for the worse, he said. The city will install new traffic signs along the roads to warn drivers of the speed humps and the new intersection, and some residents think the humps will attract hoards of skateboarders to the neighborhood, McSweeney said. "No-one's sure just how this will pan out," he said. "I can safely say that even people who want these (devices) are concerned about the signs," he said.
"Traffic Calming Devices"The city will be installing three types of traffic calming devices in the Meadow: four speed humps, two raised intersections, and one so-called "neck down." The speed humps are not the more familiar speed bumps one might see in some parking lots or parking garages; speed humps are far broader and flatter. The raised intersections are intersections that are slightly higher than the grade of the approaching roads, and the neck down is a short section of narrow road designed to slow traffic. The speed humps and raised intersections will all be 4 inches above the grade of the surrounding road. In other cities, the surfaces of the raised intersections and speed humps have been adorned with zigzag brickwork, but the Montpelier city council decided to keep costs down by simply using asphalt to top the humps.
There will be two humps and one raised intersection on each of Pearl and Spring streets; the neck down will be built next to one of the speed humps on Spring Street.
The measures installed in the Meadow will cost the city between $18,000 and $20,000, according to Fraser.
Complaints from Around MontpelierTraffic calming is a concept that may see a growing number of adherents in other neighborhoods.
Fraser ticked off streets the city is getting increasing complaints about: Berlin Street, North Street, College Street, Terrace Street and more recently Liberty Street. Towne Hill Road has been a trouble spot for more than ten years, ever since East Montpelier paved its section and the road has become a heavily-traveled through way from Plainfield and East Montpelier areas. Residents and the city have developed plans to install devices there but there have been delays in state funding. Some of the ideas outlined in a study of the road included installing a "calming splitter island" at the junction of Dover Road and Grandview roads, and a roundabout at the junction of Main Street and Towne Hill Road.
Fraser said speeding on smaller roads in town is a function of today's smoother running cars which allow drivers to move fairly fast without realizing their speed. He also said that people's tighter schedules and increasing stress may prompt people to hit the gas more than they should. Fraser also said that an increase in traffic funneling through Montpelier from nearby, growing communities like East Montpelier, Calais and Plainfield has been a factor. And as Montpelier's downtown gets more clogged with traffic, drivers are using neighborhood roads like College and Liberty streets, Derby Drive and Court Street.
Assistant Public Works Director Thomas McArdle, who grew up in Montpelier and has seen traffic burgeon since he was a kid, said in a separate interview that the increase in traffic in the area over the last several decades is partly because more women are working outside the home and people living in more rural towns near Montpelier are no longer working close to home on farms. Instead they now commute to office jobs outside their communities.
More Devices?Fraser and Gray said that the city will look at installing similar devices in other areas if they prove helpful in the Meadow. Fraser said the devices, if residents want them, on most streets would likely be installed as part of already-planned construction projects, like repaving or sewer line work. He said the city, which is planning to repave North Street in the coming days, did receive comments from a North Street resident asking that the city do what it could in the reconstruction to bring speeds down on the new surface.
Fraser said the city doesn't plan to install speed humps on North Street, but has installed traffic measuring machines to count the numbers and speeds of cars before and after the construction. If there is more traffic or faster traffic and residents want traffic calming devices, the city could install them, he said.
Asked whether it would be best to simply leave the road bumpy, given the concerns over speed, Fraser said an unpredictably bumpy road is unsafe because drivers swerve, sometimes across the center of the road to avoid bumps. He also said plowing crews have trouble cleaning the road well and sheets of ice can accumulate in low areas of the road.
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