Archive for Thursday, January 11, 2007

Traffic calming methods deserve second look

January 11, 2007

As a result of the debate over Oak Country 8, the De Soto City Council late last year considered traffic calming devices for 91st Street. After some discussion, it was decided not to install the devices on the street. Furthermore, it moved on without developing a policy for when the installation of traffic calming should be considered.

Traffic calming methods have become more sophisticated. Those vertical types used in Johnson County cities are "humps" or "islands" that get the slow-down message across more gently than the rude speed bumps found in private drives.

As council members noted, they still are potentially damaging to vehicles and troublesome for snowplows.

De Soto has a number of busy streets that aren't up to its current standards because past developments, such as Oak Country, were approved before strict standards were adopted or because former rural roads were annexed into the city. It's much too costly for the city to fix all the streets, and it's highly unlikely residents living along the streets would support the right of way widening and grade reductions that would be necessary to make them safe. That was the city's experience when a major upgrade was considered for Waverly Road south of 83rd Street and almost certainly true of the work needed to bring 91st Street and Oak Country Drive up to standards.

The city is likely to be under increasing pressure to slow traffic on these streets. Despite their drawbacks, traffic-calming methods do offer a way to train drivers to obey posted speed limits on streets not likely to be upgraded to current standards of safety.

It's only a matter of time before the city is forced to follow the lead of larger cities in the area, especially as the city contemplates moving into areas to the south and west laced with rural roads. It is not too soon to start working on a policy determining where they would be justified and who should pay for them.

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