Archive for Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Traffic flow

June 3, 2003

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Speeding motorists in residential neighborhoods is a problem, but so-called traffic-calming devices aren't always the answer.

Among the hot topics to be discussed at tonight's Lawrence City Commission meeting is an effort to "calm" traffic in the University Place Neighborhood, just south of Kansas University.

The measures being considered include a traffic-calming circle at 17th and Louisiana streets, a "pedestrian refuge island" on Louisiana at 18th Street, two temporary traffic-calming circles on 17th Street at Indiana and Illinois streets and two partial traffic diverters on 18th Street between Alabama and Missouri streets.

That's six traffic construction projects within an area of about 12 square blocks. The information in the City Commission's meeting packet doesn't include a total cost for the traffic-calming efforts.

Before city commissioners move ahead on these projects, they should ask themselves a few key questions. Residents of University Place have requested help to slow traffic in their neighborhood and reportedly are happy with the proposed plan. Would they be happy with something less?

Is there a way to address this problem without so much expensive construction? How about the new "speed humps" planned for Arizona Street between Sixth and Eighth streets? Some in the University Place Neighborhood reportedly don't like the look of the humps, but isn't the point what effect they will have on traffic?

The project to slow traffic in this area, particularly on Louisiana Street, has been in the works for a number of years. Have the unsightly traffic islands on Louisiana south of 19th Street done their job? How do people who drive emergency vehicles feel about these and other traffic "improvements?"

Speed bumps or humps may be useful in slowing traffic, but more extensive structures, like roundabouts, slow traffic mostly by confusing drivers and thereby impeding the smooth flow of vehicles. Building physical traffic hazards as a way to make motorists drive slower is a poor substitute for strong law enforcement.

The city should use traffic calming devices sparingly and not try to address every municipal traffic problem by constructing obstacle courses for motorists to negotiate.

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