Traffic calming measures move closer to reality

Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 12/13/17

ORANGE PARK – Speed humps and other devices aimed at slowing traffic could be coming to an Orange Park street near you.

Town Council reviewed a proposal from a citizens’ ad-hoc committee last …

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Traffic calming measures move closer to reality

Posted

ORANGE PARK – Speed humps and other devices aimed at slowing traffic could be coming to an Orange Park street near you.

Town Council reviewed a proposal from a citizens’ ad-hoc committee last week and approved it to be reviewed by the town’s public works department before full implementation.

A topic of discussion for quite a few years, the introduction of traffic calming, which are treatments designed to calm, reduce and potentially eliminate bad traffic habits, comes after more and more residents requested something be done about speeding in their neighborhood streets and roads. These problems, excessive speeding, overcrowding traffic and more stem from the growth of side streets becoming arteries for those looking to skip the traffic that halts drivers on U.S. Highway 17, according to council member Connie Thomas.

“When I was on a walkabout with the police department, the biggest issue heard throughout the walk was the speeding from those using neighborhood streets as a shortcut,” Thomas said. “We had to bring the neighborhoods together to determine if they want [traffic calming] and now we are working on making it happen.”

The first step in making it happen was the creation of an ad-hoc committee – a smaller committee whose purpose is to tackle one specific problem – that could create a report and presentation for how traffic calming might work in Orange Park. Because traffic calming must follow certain rules and standards, generally, an engineer’s expertise is needed.

Orange Park resident Michael Wallwork, a professional engineer with 35 years of experience in traffic calming in the U.S., Canada and Australia led the committee.

“I have been involved with, or managed, in excess of 90 traffic calming projects across the U.S. from Miami to Hawaii, all the way to Canada and even Australia,” Wallwork said. “Every town is different but I’ve learned things that I think could greatly benefit [Orange Park], specifically the roads that need it most, which I’d say are Plainfield Avenue and River Road.”

According to Wallwork, not only is the average speed of Plainfield Avenue 29 miles per hour – four miles per hour faster than the posted speed – there are a documented number of drivers who exceed the posted speed, reaching into the thirties, forties and even fifties. On top of that, a normal residential street such as Plainfield Avenue, should expect 500 to 800 drivers a day. Wallwork said the daily traffic on Plainfield Avenue often reaches 2,000. Because of the high volume, residents are having a hard time pulling in and out of driveways.

At the Dec. 5 town council meeting, Wallwork and John Bartholomew of Orange Park, presented a formal plan to bring a traffic calming policy to the town. Now, the plan will make its way into the hands of the Public Works Director Chuck Pavlos for review. Pavlos was not available for comment before deadline. There, the plan will be reviewed and if necessary, revisions will be made. Finally, the plan will go back to the town council for a vote. If the plan passes a vote, applications for traffic calming will be available and funding planned for next year’s fiscal budget.

If approved, neighborhoods wishing to enact a traffic calming treatment onto their street will need to gather at least 10 percent of the resident’s signatures, according to Wallwork. From there, an application must be filled out detailing the problem and the traffic calming treatment they wish to have set in place.

Traffic calming treatments include speed humps, raised medians, diagonal parking, street widening, street narrowing and rumble strips.

The application will go to the Public Works department, who, assuming the application is accepted, will take the steps to establish one, or more, of 26 different traffic calming treatments, which will be paid for by the town.

Wallwork understands that some treatments, such as speed humps, come as not only an annoyance to those using side streets as shortcuts, which hopefully diverts them away, but also to those who live on those side streets, as they would have to drive over them every day.

“Some treatments definitely have downsides for the residents in the area, but that’s why a treatment must be brought about by the residents themselves,” said Wallwork. “Sometimes, the problem is so bad that the trade-off is worth it.

“At the end of the day, it’s in the residents’ hands,” continued Wallwork. “If they want a treatment, they must apply for it, at which point you can assume they are okay with the downside said treatment might bring.”

The issues that plague those living on Plainfield Avenue, River Road and other Orange Park streets, are issues that go back to 2003, according to Wallwork. With the potential introduction of traffic calming, these issues might finally meet an end.

“The town is definitely open to the idea and they certainly have problems they want fixed,” said Thomas. “It seems like [traffic calming] is something the town wants and we are behind them in making it happen.”

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