Ridgewood Park residents press city to slow down traffic in neighborhood
Published: Monday, June 10, 2013 at 9:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 10, 2013 at 9:50 p.m.
Residents in a northwest Gainesville neighborhood continue to press the city to slow down the cut-through traffic in front of their houses.
In a few front yards in the Ridgewood Park neighborhood, red and white signs announce “drive like your kids live here” to drivers along the stretch of Northwest 31st Drive bordering the east side of Westside Park. Homes line the street across from the park.
But traffic from the park and Westside Middle School, in addition to cut-through traffic from drivers bypassing Northwest 34th Street to go between Northwest 16th Avenue and Northwest Eighth Avenue, creates a busy street in a neighborhood with a lot of children, pedestrians and bikes. More than 4,400 vehicles used the road during a 48-hour stretch last September, a city traffic study showed.
At the Westside Park recreation center Monday night, a contingent of some 16 residents met with City Commissioner Susan Bottcher and police, fire and public works staff to hear an update on the city’s response to their persistent concerns about speeding vehicles.
Cathy Bonde has lived along the road for more than 20 years and said going the speed limit means getting tailgated by drivers going between 16th and Eighth.
“It’s a cut-through,” she said.
Speed tables or speed bumps are the solution several residents want, but there are obstacles. For almost a decade the city has had a citywide “moratorium” on approving them. One reason, Fire Chief Gene Prince said, is they hurt emergency vehicle response times. The stretch of road in question, he pointed out, is the department’s route to any call at the Westside Park pool.
City officials also have kept the ongoing moratorium as a budget-cutting move, although speed bumps are not a substantial cost. Acting Assistant Public Works Director Phil Mann said the cost starts in the range of $2,000.
Based on the criteria they follow, city staff said the road would not qualify for speed tables or speed bumps.
Sgt. Joe Raulerson, the head of the police traffic division, said he sat on the road over a three-day span and there was “nothing for me to pull over.”
A police department radar speed study from September showed that, during a 48-hour span, 85 percent of the vehicles did not go above 27 mph on a road with a 25 mph speed limit. That didn’t reach the city’s threshold for tougher enforcement that 85 percent of the vehicles be at least 5 mph above the speed limit.
Several of the residents gathered Monday were skeptical of the city’s conclusions.
“I don’t know how this 48-hour study negates everything we see,” said Michael Andreu, who is leading the neighborhood’s push.
City officials are going to continue to look at options.
Raulerson said police will continue to do speed checks but he has limited staff and “a lot of space to put them in.”
The city plans to put a portable electronic radar sign on the road to show drivers their speed.
Bottcher, who lives a few blocks to the west, suggested the residents go to the City Commission during summer budget meetings to lobby for permanent signs. The projected cost for two is $17,000.
“That would go a long way to communicate to the people who see this as a pass-through that we’re watching them and they need to slow down,” she said.
As an alternative to speed tables or bumps, staff is also going to look into cost estimates to install rumble strips along the road to slow traffic.
Meanwhile, issues with cut-through traffic may not be going away. In late summer, the city will take one westbound and one eastbound travel lane off the stretch of Northwest Eighth Avenue just to the south as a test of including that design in a future resurfacing project.
The city expects to finish that as the county starts its long-discussed construction to the north of Northwest 16th Avenue.
And when the county project wraps up and the city starts its work on Northwest Eighth Avenue, the current design includes widening and adding turn lanes to 31st Drive at its intersection with Eighth.
All of that, residents say, could bring more traffic past their front yards.
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