Monday, October 29, 2012

Positive Progress on the Stonington Traffic Calming Initiative

Today I met with Councilman John Heneghan and Director of Public Works Michael Smith, both of whom were kind enough to make some time to discuss Stonington.  We hit a broad range of topics, so I will do my best to organize this blog post so that the broad discussions that occurred have some semblance of organization, but please read this with the idea that I am hoping to fix three problems: excessive speeds, disregarding traffic signage, improper cut-through traffic.  

The broad strokes we discussed are- (1) the study that was conducted on Stonington, (2) discussions regarding the need to study solutions (benefits and costs), and (3) timeframes under which future efforts will occur.  If you have questions about the following, do not hesitate to contact me through this blog.

1.  The Study - Mr. Smith was kind enough to provide me with the results of the study that was performed on Stonington Road, which I will happily share with any interested parties.  The study was conducted on October 3, 2012 for the entire 24 hour day.  As you may recall, the hoses for the counting device were at or near the lowest point on Stonington.  They revealed that 85% of the traffic travels at speeds of 34 mph or less.  They also revealed that during this time period, 1,072 cars traveled over Stonington.  To automatically qualify for a calming study, the travel speed must be 11 mph over the speed limit or 36 mph.  One flaw with the study is that it took place on "Walk to School" day, so an appreciable amount of the usual traffic was likely foot traffic on that occasion.  John shared this fact with Mr. Smith, and it appears that the results of the study will not impede getting Stonington's situation looked at further. 

2.  Solutions - After looking at the study results, Mr. Smith has indicated a willingness to proceed with evaluating and proposing solutions for Stonington's traffic problems.  He visited Stonington Road, and noted that the stop signs were in clear visibility areas.  According to Mr. Smith, stop signs in such locations are usually less effective simply because folks that were inclined to ignore the signs can quickly assess whether or not they will need to yield the right of way.  He also noted the sweeping hill, and the problems that this can cause.

After discussing some easier, but less effective solutions such as replacing the old signs with new ones, painting lines on the street (which are often used on major vessels that travel at faster speeds than 25 mph), or adding speed humps, which may solve certain problems, but create others, we came to discuss solutions more likely to address the speed and signage problems.  

I have included drawings of three such solutions below that Mr. Smith have indicated are worthwhile solutions.  We spent much of our time discussing the first drawing below, Chicanes, and also mini-roundabouts (not pictured).  The City's study will determine the optimal locations of each of these, but preliminary indications are that there would be two or three of these features, perhaps one at each stop sign, and one at the bottom of the hill.  This is by no means finalized, and has not been formally offered by the city, but Mr. Smith regarded them as effective and mutually desirable solutions for the problems we face.  He also indicated that these could be built in such a manner as to not impede the ability of emergency personnel to travel through the neighborhood.

So what is required to get this going?  Again, the affected parties, this time likely including portions of other roads than Stonington, must agree with a 65% majority that whatever the new study reveals is the best way to proceed.  Also, these solutions will likely replace the stop signs that are currently in place.  While removing the signs sounds like a risk, it is clear that many disregard the stop signs presently, so forcing traffic through channels may not result in the total stopping of traffic, but certainly will cause traffic to slow down.  Finally, all affected parties, as defined by the city, will have $25 added to their taxes yearly.  I know that this is not an ideal end, but for added safety, reduced speeds, and potentially higher land values I believe that the juice is worth the squeeze, and I hope you do too.

3.  Timeframes - Once the design proposal has been drafted, it will be made available for review by all affected parties.  The estimated arrival time on this document will be mid-December, after which we collectively decide (again by petition) the fate of the project.  This petition will require 65% buy-in from all concerned parties (as defined by the city).

Once I have heard from Mr. Smith regarding the study, I will be reaching out to friends and neighbors all over the affected areas to educate and discuss the proposed plans.  If you are so moved, when this process starts, I would be most appreciative if you would pick a neighbor or two to discuss this with, and share this information and the need for their support.

I believe that if our collective voice is loud enough, we can create change, and make our roads safer, more desirable, and nicer through-ways on which to live.  As always, please feel free to share this with any concerned parties who are not online, and please contact me if you have input or suggestions.

I met with Public Works...

...and the outlook for this project looks a good bit better than it did a week ago.  I will be sharing the news (some good, and some challenging) in a blog entry shortly, but I wanted to let all interested parties know that this is not the end of the road.

I want to thank John Heneghan for his efforts on our neighborhood's behalf. More to come...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A letter to our neighbors sharing the study results

I sent this letter to our neighbors and several City Officials with a copy of the email from the city.  In short, I am upset about the lack of response to the problems that were voiced in the original request.  

Good afternoon all,

After hearing absolutely nothing from the City of Dunwoody regarding the Stonington Road study that was conducted a couple of weeks ago, I reached out to a city representative for an update yesterday and received the following reply (attached below). In short, the speed is not sufficient to warrant the city's attention (despite being nearly 9mph in excess of the speed limit). What was not addressed in the study, despite clear requests to the contrary, was an analysis of drivers' adherence to the signage (stop signs), and the volume of cut through traffic. I am of the position that the study conducted by the city is insufficient, and that we are being given the brush-off.

I am disappointed with the effort and communication conducted by the city to say the least, and am disappointed with the amount of effort put forth to enforce existing traffic laws and preserve our neighborhoods. As such, I will be regrouping and determining a way to make our efforts more difficult to dismiss. I am somewhat discouraged by the behavior of our city bureaucracy since quality of life and a strong police presence were the major underpinings of my decision to vote in favor of the creation of a city. This level of customer (taxpayer) service does not reflect the ideals with which the city was created.

I will keep you posted regarding my future efforts.

Kind regards,
Thomas O'Brien

A Brush-Off from the City of Dunwoody

The letter below was the City's reply and encapsulation of the study.  As you can see, the results are unfavorable to the traffic calming cause.

Mr. O’Brien,
According to the study, Stonington Rd did not qualify for traffic calming at this time as the 85th percentile speed is 34 mph. However, the results also revealed that the numbers were probably close enough to warrant a follow up study in the future.
For the speeding problem at the moment we can try to work with the Police Department on enforcement, if you’d like. I can get you in contact with Deputy Chief Sides.
Jada Drysdale
Public Works Administrative Assistant
City of Dunwoody
41 Perimeter Center E, Suite 250, Dunwoody, GA 30346
(678) 382-6850 direct | (770) 396-4828 fax

Letter of 10/22/2012

I have yet to hear an update from the City of Dunwoody, so wrote the following email to Ms. Drysdale with the city.

Ms. Drysdale,
I wanted to check in with you regarding whether or not the city had received the results of the Stonington Road study.
Kind thanks,
Thomas O’Brien

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Study is Underway!

Good news for folks following the efforts underway to calm the traffic on Stonington!  Two tubes cross the street near the bottom of the Stonington hill, midway between the two central stop signs.  Though I am no expert on the hardware, I would believe that these will give the city the opportunity to track volume of traffic by each side of the street by hour (tracking cut-through traffic), as well as speed (at a location that should capture cars at their fastest).

My one concern regarding the nature of this study would be the lack of attention to tracking compliance with the stop signs.  I will wait for results before raising this issue in a formal sense.  It certainly is possible that the tubes will be moved near the stop signs at some point during the study, or perhaps there will be stop sign calculations based on automobile speed that may help gauge compliance.  It is also possible that solutions which would be considered could cure the stop sign issue by implication.  We shall see.

Anyway, forward progress on this project is welcome, and I will share any communications from the city as I receive them.  Thank you for your support!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Our petition for study has been granted!

I received this email response from the City regarding our petition to conduct a traffic study on Stonington.  Apparently, things move quickly during this phase, though we shall see.  By their timeframe, we should have results by or around October 12-13.  It is my hope that they not only study speed, but cut through traffic, and observing signs as well.  I will keep you posted as this develops.

Mr. O’Brien,

We received the signatures and I was able to verify them today. You have over 20% so we have ordered the traffic study and we will contact you once we receive those results. This usually takes 2-3 weeks, tops. Feel free to contact us with any further questions.



Jada Drysdale
Public Works Administrative Assistant
City of Dunwoody
41 Perimeter Center E, Suite 250, Dunwoody, GA 30346
(678) 382-6850 direct | (770) 396-4828 fax

Monday, September 17, 2012

Initial Interest is Established

We have forward progress!  As you may recall, the City of Dunwoody requested a petition signed by at least 20% of the properties on Stonington to establish our interest in conducting a further review of the traffic situation.  This petition was completed yesterday afternoon, well in advance of the October 1, 2012 deadline, and I have emailed a PDF copy to the City, as well as sent original documents.  I have declined to post original copies of the filing to this blog for privacy purposes, but I will be happy to share copies via private email should you wish.  Below, you will find a copy of the cover letter that I sent with the petition, which notes three major issues that should be addressed by the study.  I have redacted portions of my personal information for privacy purposes as well.

September 17, 2012


City of Dunwoody - Public Works Department
41 Perimeter Center East, Suite 250
Dunwoody, GA 30346

Re: Stonington Road Traffic Issues – Request for Study

Dear Ms. Drysdale:

            Pursuant to your helpful email communication of August 17, 2012, I have secured eight signatures of Stonington Road residents who are directly affected by the traffic issues I describe below.  This represents approximately 22% of the 36 homes that abut Stonington Road, and should serve to communicate to the City of Dunwoody that there is sufficient interest to proceed with a study.

            As I have communicated previously, an adequate study will address the impact of three factors that currently make Stonington Road unsafe.  These three factors are as follows:

  1. Drivers exceeding the speed limits by considerable amounts.  Stonington Road features a significant hill and valley, and allows cars to frequently attain speeds of 40-50 mph with very little difficulty (in a 25 mph zone).
  2. Failure to observe the stop signs.  Though the stop signs are posted at intersections, the “flow-through” nature, and steep hills of Stonington Road makes them very, very easy roll through.  It is common to see the stop signs ignored at very high speeds.
  3. Illegal use of Stonington Road as a cut through.  The neighborhood of Dunwoody North is surrounded by “No Cut Through” signs that are ignored.  Stonington Road siphons a considerable amount of this traffic.  Additionally, despite signs indicating that Stonington Road is closed to westbound traffic between 7-9am, a considerable amount of Tilly Mill traffic uses the Stonington Corridor illegally during those hours.

Please let me know if further information is required.  There is a great deal of enthusiasm in our neighborhood about finally having these concerns addressed by our local government, and I would like to ensure that I give the City fast and complete responses as needed.  Additionally, I am keeping our neighbors informed through my blog at .  We eagerly await your response.

                                                                        Very truly yours,

                                                                        Thomas C. O’Brien, Esq.
                                                            4### Huntington Circle (corner of Huntington and Stonington)
                                                            Dunwoody, GA 30338

                                                            6##-592-8262 (cell)
                                                            7##-451-6646 (home)

cc:  John Heneghan, Michael Smith, Warren Hutmacher, Oliver Fladrich, Billy Grogan, Mike Carlson, Douglas Thompson, Gerri Penn, Sean Teichert

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The First Step

As of this writing, we have 50% of the signatures needed in order to request that the City commence its study of the Stonington corridor.  The most common concern among the folks with whom I have spoken so far is regarding what happens next.  Some have expressed concern about fixes being implemented without review, others have expressed concern about the nature of potential fixes.  These concerns are important, but will not be addressed in this process until later.

Right now, the only action that the petition will bring about is to secure the City's attention in the form of a study.  Once the study is conducted and the results are published, then discussions about how and if fixes shall be implemented will begin.  I will be sharing all information as it becomes available.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A note to our Stonington Road neighbors

***This is a note that I emailed this morning to several neighbors.  If you did not receive this note, I do not have your email address.  Please send me a note through the "comments" section if you would like to get on the distribution list.  Thomas****

Good morning all,

After watching too many cars barrel through our stop sign at breakneck speeds, I have decided to do something.  I have started the process of requesting that the City of Dunwoody explore traffic calming measures for Stonington Road.  The first step is securing signatures on the “Initial Interest” form, which simply is the City’s way of ensuring that there is enough interest in beginning the traffic study. 

My rough calculations indicate that there would be 36 affected homes abutting Stonington Road, which would mean that we need the signatures of 8 families to begin the study process.  I am emailing this group to let you know that I have started the signature gathering process, and am seeking your support.  I hope to reach out to our other neighbors shortly (likely in person, since I do not have their emails), but I wanted to let you know of the effort underway.

I have also launched a blog that will detail the A-to-Z journey of navigating this process, so that other portions of our neighborhood may benefit, and hopefully avoid any issues that we encounter.  The blog is, and will include all of my correspondence with the city, as well as notes about where in the process we currently find ourselves.

What I am asking for at this time is twofold:

1)   Please help the effort by endorsing a study.  There is no actual course of action created by the study, but simply knowledge of the scope of our issues.  I will be happy to bring the petition to your home at a time of convenience for you.
2)   Please share this effort with your Stonington neighbors.  We will need 70% support to enact any solution once the studies are done.  This represents approximately 26 households.

Thank you for your support, and if I can answer any questions, please let me know.

Thomas O’Brien
4260 Huntington Circle
Dunwoody, Georgia 30338

Cc:         Councilman John Heneghan
DNCA President Gerri Penn

Some Relevant Documents

I have hosted three important files that folks reading this blog might find of use.  These were supplied to me by Ms. Jada Drysdale, the Public Works Administrative Assistant.  They are all in PDF format, so you will need to have the ability to read Adobe Documents on your local machine.

1.  The City of Dunwoody Traffic Calming Policy

2.  Traffic Calming Procedure Flow Chart

3.  Initial Interest Form (Specific to Stonington Road)

Item 3 is the form I discussed in a previous post that demonstrates a desire for the City of Dunwoody to conduct a study on the affected road.  I included it for reference only, and if you desire to initiate this process on your own street, you will need to make contact with Ms. Drysdale for a similar form.

How do we get the City of Dunwoody's attention?

After speaking with my very responsive City Councilman, and the Dunwoody North Civic Association, I was given the appropriate contact at City Hall, who was kind enough to share the steps that need to be followed in getting the City's attention.

1.  Identify the problem in an informal communication with the city.
2.  The City will then provide an "Initial Interest" form with some information, and a petition which requires 20% interested among those folks on the street that are requesting calming measures.  This is a timed endeavor, in which 45 days are given to return the form.
3.  Once the petition is received, an Engineering Study is conducted by the city to determine the nature, scope, or even existence of a significant problem.
4.  After a significant problem is identified, passive calming methods are suggested and implemented.
5.  Then meetings with homeowners occur and active methods are suggested.
6.  Preliminary designs are made, and a formal petition is sent to homeowners.
7.  If the petition garners 70% support, there will then be public hearing and council review, after which, if approval is granted, the design will be finalized, and construction will begin.

With regard to the Stonington Road issue, I am at the very beginning of Step 2, though I suspect gaining the interest of seven homeowners along this corridor will not be difficult.

So what do I propose?

It's easy to discuss problems, but solutions are often more difficult in the coming.  I am sure that there are a number of solutions that would be more than adequate, but here are a few.  Most of these will require the assent of a super-majority of the affected parties, so calming measures may certainly take a variety of forms. I have listed several, though these are not necessarily desirable or practical.  Ultimately, I would like to begin to dialog about how to prevent the traffic problems on our street.

Some potential solutions (in no particular order) -
1.  Speed Humps - These large bumps are very effective in slowing folks down, and do not require much maintenance.  They can be inconvenient when driving a car with a low suspension, but in most cases they provide a solid "one size fits all" solution.

2.  Islands at Stop Signs - Speaking from my own personal experience, I think that these are an attractive way to enforce stop signs, and reduce the inertia that propels so many cars down Stonington at break neck speeds.  By forcing folks to observe the stop signs, or at least slow down appreciably, this thoroughfare becomes a lot less desirable as a "speed through", and folks may seek other alternatives.

3.  A Stonington "One Way Turn" Island at Tilly Mill - This would prevent a lot of the traffic that turns from Tilly Mill onto Stonington when cutting through. I would be interested to study where the cut through traffic comes from and see if an alternative like this would be workable.

4.  Close the Intersection of Tilly Mill and Stonington - Apparently in years past this was done.  I think that this is a drastic solution that would affect a number of residents well beyond those who are affected by the Stonington Traffic.  I suspect that a solution such as this would be the source of a great deal of contention.

4.  Increased Police Presence - This is always desirable, but in truth, I would prefer to allocate police resources toward addressing and preventing the most serious crimes that are occurring in Dunwoody.

5.  Digital Speed Limit Signs with Radar - I do not know how effective these are, but with the number that are springing up, I would imaging that there are studies somewhere that justify their use.  I would think that these would probably slow some distracted drivers down, but not those who know full well what they are doing.

Let's all calm down...

After conversations with multiple friends and neighbors, it appears we all agree that Stonington Road could benefit from improvements.  From my vantage point, I see three major issues that should be addressed.

1)  Speed - Stonington Road is a hill, and it is easy to catch a good head of steam heading down the road, but 50-60 mph is a problem, especially given the number of children who live along the road.  The speed problem gives rise to the next concern.

2) Observing Traffic Signs - There are two stop signs in the middle of the journey between Tilly Mill and East Kings Point.  These stop signs are ignored on a ridiculously frequent basis, especially by those cars who are travelling at high rates of speed.

3) Cut Through Traffic - Our homes are in a strategically advantageous location.  We know this, and it likely factored into our decision to buy homes in Dunwoody.  We all should expect a certain measure of culpability for "coming to the nuisance".  However, Stonington is closed as a cut through during rush hours, and in fact our entire neighborhood is covered by "No Thru Traffic" signs, but these are frequently disregarded as well.

When these three problems come together at once, we create unsafe conditions for foot traffic, bike traffic, and even children who play in their yards.  I am seeking the city's help in reducing the impact of these three problems on Stonington Road.

A bit of background...

The purpose of this blog is to provide a central rallying point for Dunwoody residents who are seeking to make improvements to the thruways.  I will also be using this website to educate folks regarding the process of seeking the city's attention to these issues, and to journal the progress of my own efforts to secure traffic calming measure on Stonington Road.

It is my hope that we are able to group together and seek the city's attention for a number of hotspots within our neighborhoods that remain unsafe for foot traffic.  If you have any ideas regarding how to improve this site, please leave feel free to leave a comment below.