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.

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