City doesn't lift moratorium on speed humps

Published: Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 10:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 10:43 p.m.

For now, the City Commission favors keeping in place the decade-long moratorium on speed tables and speed humps.

The issue of the moratorium resurfaced over the last year in response to complaints about speeding in neighborhoods, including along Northwest 31st Drive, a residential road on the east side of Westside Park and Westwood Middle School.

Assistant Public Works Director Phil Mann said when residents call to complain about speeding on neighborhood streets, they “want humps and tables and are not interested in anything else.”

Commissioners cited budget issues and the fire department’s continued concerns about negative effects on response times as reasons for keeping the moratorium.

“Speed humps and speed tables do what they were designed to do, they slow vehicles down,” Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Lane said. “But they slow Fire Rescue vehicles down disproportionately to other vehicles.”

Discussing the concerns, Fire Chief Gene Prince said the department currently has a five-minute average response time for fires and six-minute average response time for medical calls when the national standard for both is four minutes.

The City Commission did discuss the possibility of speed cushions, which are tables with gaps to accommodate the wheels of emergency vehicles. In the end, they decided to send the issue back to committee for more discussion on traffic calming alternatives in neighborhoods.

Commissioner Yvonne Hinson-Rawls raised the possibility of rumble strips. Commissioner Todd Chase said four of the best traffic calming devices were seated in the room. He then pointed to the Gainesville police officers who were at the meeting for the neighborhood speeding issue and other items on the agenda.

Giving history on the issue, Mann said that, before the moratorium, the city spent more than $500,000 for speed tables and humps and spent it in $75,000 annual increments.

As for Northwest 31st Drive, residents met with Commissioner Susan Bottcher and Public Works and GPD staff over the course of several months. Police said their speed study showed the average speed of vehicles was below the posted 25 mph speed limit.

Bottcher said the city officials involved in the meetings with residents concluded the issue was more pedestrian safety than speeding vehicles.

On Thursday, commissioners voted unanimously to add a $78,500 project to construct a sidewalk on the east side of Northwest 31st Drive to the city’s currently unfunded bicycle and pedestrian safety plan.

Before that vote, there was talk of adding Northwest 31st to the city’s sidewalk construction priority list. Mayor Ed Braddy objected to that after staff said that plan would have the sidewalk along Northwest 31st built ahead of other higher-ranked priorities on the list.

Braddy said some of those higher-ranked sidewalk projects may be in east Gainesville. He pointed to the commission’s discussion earlier in the day on a Southeast Fourth Street road resurfacing and comments that Commissioners Lauren Poe and Hinson-Rawls made about equitable funding for infrastructure in east Gainesville.

Commissioners will revisit the sidewalk along Northwest 31st during summer budget meetings. The plan is for construction to take place in conjunction with the Northwest Eighth Avenue resurfacing.

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