City hears good reports on traffic-slowing devices

By Jeffrey Pieters

Three years after they were installed on Fox Valley Drive in southwest Rochester, speed tables and other "traffic-calming" implements have received mostly favorable reviews.

If only the same could be said for the financial resources at the city's disposal, then more traffic-calming projects could be built elsewhere in Rochester.

The city received a report Monday on the speed tables, 31⁄2-inch; tall, 22-feet long concrete platforms installed on an experimental basis in 2001.


At a cost of $114,000, half of that paid by property owners through a special $600 assessment, the city intended to show whether a series of bumps, intermittent median islands, a textured crosswalk and a roundabout could slow traffic on a long, straight downhill road that was known for excessive speeding.

Between 2000 to 2004, speeds slowed an average of 26 percent, from around 39 mph to 29 mph.

"The speed tables have worked well on Fox Valley Drive -- the data supports that," Public Works Director Richard Freese said.

The council heard from emergency responders and snow-plow operators, who can accept a few bumps in the road, if with some grumbling, because of a general sense that those bumps make the roads safer.

Several cautioned, though, that the bumps should be placed sparingly. The fire department, in particular, noted that some of its engines have to come to nearly a complete stop to cross the speed tables without being damaged.

Regular drivers have shown signs of coming to grips with having to slow down on Fox Valley Drive.

David Kramer, the city's interim traffic engineer, surveyed 20 drivers one day last week at the south end of Fox Valley Drive. Six said they like the speed tables, seven said they dislike them, and seven said they "don't mind" them. Kramer said this survey supports retaining the speed tables.

Traffic-calming implements are in high demand. According to Kramer, residents in 35 areas in the city so far have asked for them.


At best, though, the city will be able to fund perhaps one new project a year. In a preliminary budget request, the Public Works Department is seeking $100,000 a year for traffic calming. That would include $50,000 in property-tax support, and $50,000 specially assessed to property owners.

The money spent to slow traffic on 3,500 feet of Fox Valley Drive came to a rate of $198,000 per mile to slow traffic by about 10 mph.

Yet speed tables and the like are only one method at the city's disposal to slow traffic. Making streets narrower or more curvy also can bring speeds down, Kramer said.

The city will look into revising some of its requirements for streets in new, developing areas, perhaps requiring, where possible, that streets be narrowed and curved.

Police enforcement is the most expensive and least effective means of controlling traffic speed, Police Chief Roger Peterson said, because as soon as an officer ceases to watch an area, speeding is likely to resume. Revenues from speeding tickets are not lucrative to the city, he said, because a majority of that money goes to other jurisdictions, such as the state and Olmsted County. The city gets less than one-third of the fine on a speeding ticket, he said.

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