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Assessments could be applied to traffic calming measures

Slowing down speedy drivers could cost Woodbury residents, according to a proposed policy.

Woodbury City Council and staff repeatedly went back and forth on what to do to solve the problem -- while trying to please everyone -- at a workshop Wednesday night.

Not only did the discussion cover the construction aspects of it, it addressed a subject that may affect everyone in town: assessments.

The council was divided on how to pay for future traffic calming projects if they're necessary. Two members were in favor of contributing some of the city's money to pay for it, and three were in favor of assessing 100 percent of the costs to the affected neighborhoods.

The city has about $10,000 in funds available for traffic calming measures, which Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens said she has no problem using to slow down drivers.

But Council member Paul Rebholz said if the neighborhoods are requesting speed humps, chicanes or other measures needed to calm traffic, those residents should pay.

"I don't want to make the speeding issue out to more than it is," he said.

A current assessment policy on construction projects states that one-third of the costs are assessed to residents and two-thirds are the city's responsibility.

If streets like Woodcrest Drive or Sherwood Road are narrowed or have added speed tables, then those neighborhoods should foot the bill, Rebholz said.

But he was also skeptical about traffic calming measures already installed in other areas of the city like Pinehurst Drive and Steepleview Road.

"Are the chicanes on Steepleview and Pinehurst really accomplishing anything?" he questioned.

The council discussed changing the design of those streets as well, as part of a citywide design standard to be implemented, and suggested the cost of such projects would be assessed to Woodbury residents.

"If you want to change Pinehurst, knock yourselves out," Rebholz said. "But why am I paying for that?"

There are downsides of narrowing roads or widening chicanes, said City Engineer Klayton Eckles. They often get clipped by plow trucks, they're hard to navigate through by emergency vehicles and most drivers get used to them anyway that they eventually speed up again.

He added that speed humps typically work if they're put in a group, but neighborhoods will end up with irritated drivers and loud noise.

The council ended up crafting a proposed policy, which includes a toolbox of suggested traffic calming options that staff will amend before presenting to the council for final approval.

Among the options were: speed humps -- which did not appear to have council support; chicanes, which left part of the council neutral; a four-foot street width reconstruction; and a radar speed sign.

"I'm OK with the 28-foot deal, but when we do it, people are gonna be unhappy," Council member Amy Scoggins said, explaining that some parents want more room for their kids to ride their bikes out on the streets.

Traffic calming almost comes down to educating drivers about safety hazards they cause by speeding and also raising awareness about the high fines that can reach $200 or more depending on how many boxes are checked, said Public Safety Director Lee Vague.

"It's very punitive to the people that get caught," he said. "When we're gone, the speeds go up again."

County roads speed limit

Rebholz said coming off major county roadways and making right hand turns directly onto residential streets is also part of the problem.

Drivers going 55 to 65 mph don't transition to 30 mph quick enough before realizing they're on residential streets, he added, and county officials are opposed to reducing the speed limits.

"I just wish people would slow down," Rebholz said. "The speed limit is 30, it's not 35, it's not 40."

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.