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City Council hits a speed bump

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Bottom line, city officials learned last night, there isn’t a proven method in getting motorists to slow down and obey traffic laws in residential neighborhoods.

The Sunnyside City Council heard several options for handling the heavy traffic flow on South Hill and Saul roads during last night’s meeting, including a proposal by city engineering firm HLA on how to handle the problem.

Stephanie Ray of HLA gave a short presentation on methods of traffic calming, noting that there is no universal best solution to the problem.

“Despite popular belief, this is not an exact science,” she said.

HLA looked at various case studies to determine the best way of handling the volume and speed of traffic in that area. Ray said any method of traffic calming works best in conjunction with enforcement by local police.

Earlier in the meeting, the council heard from Mike Heitstuman, a resident of Saul Road, who praised police for enforcement of the speed limit and stop signs along the roads. Heitstuman pointed out that there are four speed limit signs, but motorists still ignore them and race down the roadway.

He said he doubted that flashing speed limit signs would slow the type of drivers who are using the road as a shortcut, but HLA’s proposal starts with flashing radar signs at the entry points to the stretch of road.

Ray said HLA had considered such methods as speed bumps, speed humps, rumble strips, textured pavement, radar signs and traffic diverters.

The engineering team decided it would be in the city’s best interest to start with two solar powered radar signs, which would cost the city about $4,300 each.

The second phase would be to add speed humps, which are longer than speed bumps and have a rounded top. HLA estimated the city would need five of the humps at a cost of about $3,000 each.

The last resort would be a traffic diverter that limits the directions motorists can turn at the intersection of Saul and South Hill roads.

Ray stressed that none of the traffic calming methods work without police enforcement. She also noted that most of the calming measures have downsides, particularly to emergency vehicles, which have to navigate speed humps more slowly than other vehicles.

Deputy Mayor Theresa Hancock, who was conducting the council meeting, said there are other neighborhoods in town that need traffic calming as well. She said she would like to see a city-wide study done to find out what streets need the most help.

Councilman Jason Raines asked for the opinions of Police Chief Al Escalera, who said the city can certainly use a full-time traffic officer.

“Traffic enforcement works, but it has to be consistent,” he said.

He approved of the radar signs, but said enforcement will make the most difference in driver behavior.

Councilman Dean Broersma agreed with Hancock, and asked if the council should start talking about a comprehensive plan to reduce speeding throughout the city.

Raines argued that the problem on Saul and South Hill roads can be reduced with a relatively small investment by the city, and asked the council to consider testing the traffic calming methods as suggested by HLA.

The council made no decisions about how to proceed, and plans to discuss the options again at a future meeting.

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