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Oswego looks at ways to slow down speeders

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Oswego trustees are looking at ways to slow traffic on neighborhood streets.

“I can see benefits in high-pedestrian areas. I can think of two roads where kids are crossing super-wide roads to get to school,” Trustee Karin McCarthy-Lange said.

The village’s staff was looking to see if the Village Board was interested in developing policies on traffic calming devices for new roads and making changes to existing roadways to slow traffic.

Village officials said they have found radar speed signs are relatively effective in slowing traffic, but the effectiveness of asphalt speed bumps installed in one village subdivision have had questionable results.

Although no decisions were made, trustees supported the idea of assigning a task force to look at ways to slow traffic on new residential streets built in the village.

Administrative intern Aaron Howe did a preliminary study on various “traffic calming methods” intended to change driver behavior to enhance safety for residents, pedestrians and other drivers.

The traffic slowing measures included speed bumps and tables, which are the least expensive alternatives, to the more costly neighborhood traffic circles and curb extensions that some municipalities have implemented. Neighborhood traffic circles are engineered to slow vehicles and reduce collisions by putting a circular island within an intersection. These can cost $5,000 to $15,000 depending on the landscaping.

Curb extensions are designed to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians, with an average cost from $2,000 to $20,000, village officials said.

Mid-block islands or off-set curb extensions with centerline striping are intended to slow vehicles as well, with a cost of $5,000 to $10,000.

Howe said while “different measures are expected to have different results,” it became apparent at the conclusion of his research that “no traffic method will solve all of your traffic” problems.

He said traffic calming measures may be helpful but the core of the traffic issues may be associated with the design of the roadways.

Howe explained each traffic calming device has its own set of pros and cons that need to be considered. For instance, speed bumps are effective in getting motorists to slow down, but the public’s general opinion of those roadway humps are “very negative” and some residents do not want them in their subdivisions, he said.

The report included local traffic data, specifically average speeds on some 40 streets with a speed limit of 25 mph.

Howe said the results for the most part “did not produce validated data” based on input from residents “to support the claim that the speed of traffic is exceptionally high” in these locations.

He said the data did show two locations, on Wolf’s Crossing Road/Hawthorne Drive and Mill Street/ Lynx Lane, where speeding has been an issue, but it does not warrant traffic calming measures beyond radar speed signs because they are collector roads with high traffic. Oswego police have recommended additional patrol on those roads as an appropriate response.

The Oswego Fire Protection District and Oswego Police Department officials weighed in on the initial discussion. Fire officials had a number of concerns with how the various measures can increase response times in a “significant” way. They said in part speed bumps can take up to 10 seconds to get over for large pieces of firefighting equipment, and typically there are more than one on the road. Fire officials also said the turn radius of larger vehicles can be a problem where intersections are narrowed.

Police officials acknowledged response times may be affected by as much as 10.7 seconds if there is a speed bump a squad car has to get over.

Jennifer Hughes, Oswego public works director, said it is important to establish what the village is looking for before further effort is put into an analysis on ways to stop speeding.

“The traffic data indicates with the exception of a couple of roads, the vast majority of motorists are driving within the speed limit,” she said. “Even when residents may have the perception there is speeding going on the reality is we are not seeing that.”

She said the two roads noted for speeding are thoroughfares with no driveways and would not meet the criteria for traffic calming measures.

“We do use the radar speed signs and they are relatively effective,” she added.

Of the one subdivision that has speed bumps, “we have seen mixed results,” she said. “We still have complaints of speeding in the neighborhood and have requests to put them in the alleys.”

“Some of these (traffic slowing) methods are rather expensive and we would not want to start installing them without assurance the neighborhood supports them,” she said.

Linda Girardi is a freelance writer for The Beacon-News

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