Green light for traffic safety push

Vancouver develops two-year traffic-calming program to slow drivers

By Stover E. Harger III, Columbian neighborhood news coordinator

Published:

 
photoNeighborhood Traffic Safety Alliance Chair Ross Montgomery, right, discusses pedestrian safety issues on April 8 at the corner of East 29th and R Streets with Rose Village neighborhood residents Frank Choate, from left, Donna Dummann, Arlene Forbes and Sue Nagy.

(/The Columbian)

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Get involved

Vancouver residents interested in proposing a residential traffic-calming project can bring it before the Neighborhood Traffic Safety Alliance at its 7 p.m. meetings on the third Tuesday of every month at Vancouver City Hall. Initial applications are due June 28.

Questions can be directed to NTSA Chair Ross Montgomery at montre2ecs@aol.com or 360-892-1968. Learn more.

Common traffic-calming devices

Speed cushions: Raised portions on the road to force slower driving, but not hinder emergency vehicles.

Typical project cost: $5,000 to $15,000.

Signs: Extra signs remind drivers of the speed limit or that they are traveling near a school.

Typical project cost: $1,000 to $1,500.

Median: An island narrows the roadway and can serve as a refuge for pedestrians.

Typical project cost: $15,000 to $20,000.

Traffic circle: Round island at an intersection to slow entering and exiting traffic with no stop signs.

Typical project cost: $5,000 to $15,000.

Roadway striping: Pavement markers, such as bike lanes, to improve safety.

Typical project cost: $1,000 to $15,000.

Raised crosswalk: A crosswalk painted over a slight bump in the road, similar to a speed cushion.

Typical project cost: $10,000 to $15,000.

Note: Estimated cost ranges from city of Vancouver.

Some Rose Village residents fear lead-footed drivers blasting past Washington Elementary School are moving their neighborhood down a road to tragedy.

Each school day, a few dozen youngsters cross East 29th Street on their way to and from nearby Washington Elementary School. But as many in Rose Village are aware, the residential street has become infamous for attracting fast drivers who appear to take advantage of the lengthy straight stretch.

The school has no buses; some kids are driven by parents, while many travel in an organized procession known as the "Walking School Bus."

Because so many children walk to classes, Rose Village Neighborhood Association board member Sue Nagy says something needs to be done to make their journey safer.

Nagy has teamed with other concerned neighbors to develop a plan they hope will lead to the city investing in signs, a slightly sloped crosswalk where 29th Street intersects with R Street or something else to remind speeders they are putting young lives at risk with their reckless rushing.

"People aren't always paying attention," the 67-year-old said. "This is what we are hoping to do, make people aware."

Avenues to safer streets

Vancouver phased out its Neighborhood Traffic Management Program three years ago. The decision was a response to budget shortfalls and dwindling tax revenues from real estate sales. Since then there's been limited resources available for traffic-calming projects.

But now the city and the volunteer Neighborhood Traffic Safety Alliance are launching the new Neighborhood Traffic Calming Program, which is budgeted to spend $200,000 over two years on projects designed to make residential roads safer.

The first round of projects will be picked around November. Work will follow to alter streets in ways designed to slow drivers and divert heavy traffic. Improvements could range from signs and speed cushions, road bumps designed to allow large vehicles to roll over without difficulty, to traffic circles, medians and pinch points. Adding street trees and landscaping are also considered by experts as viable ways to discourage speeding.

Vancouver residents can likely rattle off a handful of streets in their neighborhood -- just like East 29th Street -- where drivers press on the gas despite speed limit signs telling them to take it easy.

Neighborhood Traffic Safety Alliance Chair Ross Montgomery said $80,000 is set aside for projects picked this year, while $120,000 is budgeted for 2014 when the application process begins again. He said there's no guarantee the city will pay for this program past next year.

"We want to strike while the iron is hot," Montgomery said.

Anyone who lives in Vancouver can bring a project idea to the alliance when it meets on the third Tuesdays of most months at Vancouver City Hall. Potential projects will be reviewed and ranked based on a number of criteria. Initial proposals are due June 28.

Impacts on speeding

In the mid-2000s, city staff analyzed the effects of Vancouver traffic-calming projects implemented between 1995 and 2005. Findings showed the road improvements averaged a 25-percent decrease in traffic volume in those areas and an 80-percent drop in vehicles driving faster than 30 mph.

First Place resident Susan Page said she's witnessed firsthand how a few bumps in the road can have a major impact in cutting down on speeding.

After six years requesting city officials address traffic woes in her neighborhood — especially near First Place Park where there were numerous crashes — a few speed cushions were built in 2010.

Since then, Page said she's noticed a drop in drivers treating the curved roads near the park like their own personal racetrack.

"It really has dramatically changed the problem here," she said.

While the improvements seemed to make the park area safer, Page believes it has also shifted speeders to other streets.

"We need more speed bumps," she said. "Speed bumps do work."