Monday, June 12, 2006

Q - I never exceed the speed limit, yes or no?

We all try to obey the traffic laws. Most of us drive the speed limit ... most of the time. But some of us drive way too fast ... some of the time.

The most frequently cited complaint from citizens when I was a Laurel council member was that cars were driving way too fast in their neighborhoods.

Many people agree that speeding on residential streets is a problem in Laurel. It is a problem all over the state. Small town police departments do everything possible, but putting out a permanent radar enforcement unit is almost impossible.

Unfortunately, a bill that would have allowed Montgomery and Prince George's counties to install a fleet of speed radar cameras on residential streets and in school zones died in a House committee without a vote in 2004. A bill was passed in 2005, just for Montgomery County, but not in Prince Georges County. (This is an issue to bring up with the candidates.)

Kara Weinstein has been working with the City government and her neighbors to reduce speeding on the 400 and 500 blocks of 4th Street. She writes a great article about her crusade in the comments section of this post. Click here to read her article.

I've whipped up another quick survey to explore the traffic calming problem in Laurel. Please take a few minutes to answer it. Click here to take the survey. I'll post the results here in a few days.

Your comments are always appreciated. Please send this blog link to your friends and neighbors. Thanks again for reading.



Rick Wilson said...

Posted with permission on behalf of Kara Weinstein.

**A huge thanks to those that attended the public hearing on speed and safety on 4th Street at City Hall Thursday (June 8th) evening.

Several neighborhood children!, neighbors, Councilwoman Jan Robison, members from the Traffic & Public Safety Commission, Police Chief Dave Crawford, Lt. McLaughlin, Paul McCulough of Public Works (there for Ted Delany), Mike Sarich, and many, many others (I apologize for any misspelling of names) were present.
Though there appears to be some opposition to the city’s proposed plan for addressing the excessive volume and speed of drivers on 4th Street, there is overwhelming support, including residents from other parts of Laurel who share similar safety concerns. Some parking will be affected from these measures, but there was overwhelming (though sadly not total consensus) support for increasing safety as the priority.
We learned that traffic calming measures, specifically, a possible traffic roundabout, will be placed at 8th and Montrose in the near future.

Here are some facts:
• On average, according to a specific traffic study completed in January 06’, in a 24 hour time period, 2,200 vehicles drove down 4th. Mean speeds of 85% of drivers seemed to be within the legal range, but the remaining 15% ranged from 11 to 63 miles per hour. Officials realized that speed may have not been recorded accurately due to the simultaneous placement during the study of the radar wagon.
• Fourth Street is a residential street, NOT a thoroughfare.
• The City of Laurel CANNOT place stop signs because there are specific state-wide guidelines that must be met. You can reference this HUGE book called the MUTCD 2000.
• The City has a special police task force for the entire city on duty for ticketing speeders. We hope to see them out from time to time.
• The revenue collected from tickets DOES NOT go to the City; rather it goes to the State.
• Speed cameras used to record tag #s ARE NOT legal in the State of MD.
• Traffic Calming Measures have been shown to reduce speed and volume. The measures we will see in place were designed by the City and agreed upon by the public.

By contacting Public Works, you will be able to view the designs if you did not come to the meeting.
Parking will be restricted in a few areas of 4th Street. In the initial phases of this plan, leaf, snow, and trash collection will not.

The Keep Kids Alive/Drive 25 campaign will continue.

If you happen to catch the tag # on speeders as they dash by, you may contact the non-emergency police number and ask for Ruth Ann Hyatt and warnings may be issued to those drivers.

If you see speeding vehicles from Fox dealership, contact their management directly. City Council Members and police have contacted their management in the past.

Here is the plan:

There will be a 3-Phase traffic calming approach used similar to that on 4th Street behind the mall (Hecht’s) and in Russet community.
The movement from phase-to-phase is not automatic and will be subject to public hearing.

Next week another traffic study will be conducted using a stealth camera to record speed and volume (not tag #s), without the radar wagon to establish a baseline measurement.

*Phase One will occur approximately 2 weeks thereafter and will include the following- three layers of therma-plastic tape. If your car should bump into this tape, it will not harm your car. It should give a particular illusion to drivers to encourage reduced speed. You may not park inside of the tape. There will be accompanying signage. The tape islands will come out from the curb approximately 6ft in the middle and tapered at the edges into the curb forming a semi-circle of sorts and will be approximately 32 feet long. No one home will loose total parking.

A single ‘choker’ will be placed on the right of 4th Street in front of 502 4th Street. A ‘double choker’ occurring on both sides of the street will be placed approximately between 409/407 4th Street and part of 410 on the other side. A single ‘choker’ will also be placed on the opposite side of the street in the 300 block of 4th before Montgomery.

Public Works will flier homes to inform about this imminent measure, but the tape will be placed by June 23rd, 2006.

The tape will remain in place for approximately 6 months to assess for change. Traffic studies via the camera will be collected at times and public perception discussed.

Another meeting will be held around January.

Phase Two will occur if Phase One is not totally effective in reducing speed and volume. This phase involves bendable sticks of some sort in those same areas where there will be tape.

Phase Three will occur if Phase two has not worked and includes concrete extensions of the curb in those same areas (where the tape and sticks were) with landscaped garden beds.

Again, the movement between phases is not automatic and if these measures do not work, other measures will be designed and implemented.

Thank you!!!**
ara Weinstein

MIke Sarich said...

Kara & Jan, working with the Administration and the community at large, are doing great work on this issue.

It's clear that the 2,220 plus vehicles that traverse 4th St. should obey the speed limit. The measures proposed for the first phase are very minor and I look forward to their implementation on or around the 23rd of June.

Again, as always, a special thanks to Rick for providing us with this forum.