Following a revision to the City’s traffic calming policy and approval by Asheville City Council, the City of Asheville Transportation Department has resumed projects designed to ease traffic speed on neighborhood roads.
Speeding and unnecessary through-traffic presents dangers that affect the quality of life in residential areas. In order to provide a safer environment, the City of Asheville seeks to provide traffic calming to neighborhoods that go through the process of requesting it. A 2000 Traffic Calming Policy approved by City Council established a protocol for responding to requests from residents for traffic calming installations, but funding for such projects has been unavailable since 2007.
With $100,000 funding approved in the 2013/2014 budget, the Transportation Department is able to once more address requests for traffic calming, beginning with those submitted since 2007.
“We have a backlog of traffic calming projects requested by residents that stretches back seven years or so, and those are going to be our first priority right now,” said Transportation Director Ken Putnam. “We appreciate the patience of these folks and are working closely with them to move projects forward.”
The department worked closely with the Public Safety Committee, the Neighborhood Advisory Committee, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force sub-committee and the Asheville Police Department to develop next steps.
In March City Council approved an action plan and revisions to the traffic calming policy that shifted focus to the use of speed humps, speed cushions or other lower-cost strategies. That move will stretch the funding budgeted for the projects by focusing on installation instead of design.
“Speed humps are really the most economical kind of device to slow traffic, and they are easier on vehicles,” Putnam said. “Bicyclists also seem to prefer them to other speed reduction devices.”
Staff is currently analyzing or working with the top seven locations on the waiting list to determine those that meet a certain threshold of traffic volume and have an identified speeding problem. Residents on the first of those, Bear Creek Road, have already reviewed the locations for speed humps and completed the necessary collection of signatures. Work is expected to take place in July.
“We work closely with the neighborhoods on these,” Putnam says. “Especially since there is the possibility that interest in traffic calming may have declined over time.”
The revised Traffic Calming Policy also includes changes that make it easier for neighborhoods to initiate the consideration of speed humps, allows for the combination of public-private funding and ensure safe access for emergency vehicles.
Additionally, the city plans a public outreach campaign designed to increase awareness of speeding and other dangerous driving habits.
“We really want the community to gather around the cause that safer driving is better for individuals, for neighborhoods and for the city as a whole,” Putnam said.
Updates on individual traffic calming projects will be posted to the City’s Projects Page.