The residents along Lullwater Road in northwest Albany took a traffic concern of theirs through channels and have accomplished something that, according to city officials, has never been done in Albany. Speed humps are now in place despite the city administration’s reluctance to put them there. Indeed, Lake Park Neighborhood Watch may have started something new besides the construction of a few speed humps — direct citizen control of issues deemed to be critical in their neighborhood.
For years, Lullwater Road has been a major artery from Dawson Road to Gillionville Road, and all points in between, as well as neighborhood traffic. With an increase in student enrollment at Darton College on Gillionville, and a growing percentage of children now living in the area, residents were concerned about the amount of traffic and the speed of many cutting through.
Albany Traffic Manager Randy Casagrande said that the project came about because of citizens communicating their concern to their city commissioners, who then requested that the work get done. Up until that point, the project was not something the Traffic Department has on its agenda. “Our concern is traffic flow, and anytime you do something like this, it affects that,” said Casagrande.
Casagrande said this is the first time his department installed speed humps in a residential area. The speed humps utilize a new process of rubber matting laid down end to end and securing them to the roadway. The plan called for six locations along Lullwater for the humps, costing between $17,000 and $18,000.
“Many residents along Lullwater requested speed bumps due to the three-car accidents last year where cars left the road, and in one case, hit a house,” said Ward 4 City Commissioner Roger Marietta, who represents the area.
City engineers at first told lawmakers that speed humps were impossible, so there was an initial move to put a four-way stop at the intersection of Lullwater and Greenwood, to slow traffic down. However, City Safety Director Michelle Strickland said that putting a four-way stop at that location is against state law. Commissioner Bob Langstaff made a motion to proceed with speed humps, which Marietta seconded. The vote was unanimous.
Strickland pointed out that these are temporary speed humps, not permanent bumps. The vertical deflection of a speed hump is significantly less than that of a speed bump. Speed bumps go in parking lots. Speed humps go in the street. She said, “Traffic calming, when thoughtfully and correctly applied can address any number of neighborhood traffic issues.”
The Institute of Transportation Engineers’ guidelines for installing speed humps recognize the need to keep primary emergency routes clear of obstructions.
Strickland added, “It is my sincere hope that no family experiences a tragedy that is exacerbated due to a delay in emergency response.”
The city’s new “traffic calming policy”, drafted by the City Engineer’s Office, and approved later by the Commission, allows for temporary speed humps on residential roads not to exceed 6 months. Normally Lullwater would not have been considered under the new policy because it is considered a “minor collector” street not a “residential” road. Since the vote for the speed humps took place before the traffic calming policy was created, the Lullwater project was grandfathered in.
Keith Thomas, president of the Lake Park citizen group, said that he is very pleased with the unanimous vote of the commissioners to get this done. Thomas said that even though the humps are temporary, they are a “milestone” after almost 10 months of work to get petition signatures, and involvement from city leaders. Since the installation of the humps, last week, Thomas says the results are “absolutely amazing.”
Now, he says, the group will begin looking into ways to keep the humps in place on a more permanent basis, beyond the six month timeline.
“We just want our kids to be able safely go in their front yard. This is neighborhood street, not Slappey Boulevard,” he said.
In the wake of the group’s success in getting something done to address neighborhood traffic concerns, others have expressed a desire to see the humps put on more streets. Ward 2 Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard says they may help on Don Cutler Drive, local businessman Sam Shugart has requested the humps be installed around Lake Loretta, and residents of Forest Glen have also demanded them. Under the new traffic calming policy, 80 percent of the residents on a block of a street have to request them through a petition, and, a traffic study has to be completed that shows that 85 percent of the cars that pass thru are at speeds of 10 mph over the speed limit.
By Kevin Hogencamp