The 28 homeowners who live on congress run Road have watched as traffic has steadily increased on their street over the past five years, going from about 300 cars a day to more than 900 (measured one-way, down the street).
“They call it the Waze effect,” says Congress Run homeowner Sue Erhart, referring to the popular traffic app. “People look for alternate routes to get to the major arteries.”
Congress Run empties onto Galbraith Road, which connects to the Ronald Reagan Cross County Highway, a major east-west commuter route.
Unfortunately, with the increase in traffic came an increase in speed. Upgrades to the roadway made by the city in 2010 – while making the street smoother and more aesthetically pleasing – also made it easier for drivers to push the pedal down, adds Erhart, who has lived on Congress Run since 2004. The speed limit on the street is 25, but some drivers were clocked by speed signs at more than 50 mph.
The roadway upgrades in 2010 also included new sidewalk, she says, and rolled curbs that eliminate a hard edge between the road and the sidewalk. In addition, the sidewalk on Congress Run runs adjacent to the road, with no landscaped buffer zone in between, putting pedestrians very close to the road. With excessive speed and some drivers cutting the winding corners treacherously close to the sidewalk, residents felt conditions were ripe for an accident. Drivers had even been observed swerving onto the sidewalk at times, says Erhart. Residents were especially concerned about potentially serious consequences for pedestrians, many of whom are children walking to and from a school bus stop at the top of the street.
So, two years ago, they decided to organize a committee and ask the city for help. Erhart became the unofficial leader of the group, and wrote a letter to city manager lynn tetley seeking potential remedies for their concerns. Through a long process of presentations at numerous city council and committee meetings, research and studies of traffic patterns, the residents made their case to the city.
The homeowners were open to ideas, and sought the simplest solutions first.
“We started with just the idea of having the police enforce the speed limit,” Erhart says. “But due to the short distance of the road (and the slope), they said it was difficult to use radar to get a reading and then ticket a driver. We also used speed reminder signs. But these only had a limited effect.”
Using their own research and that of the city, the two groups eventually concluded speed humps were the most effective and economical solution. The cost of the project was roughly $14,000, and was funded through the capital improvement budget. The humps were installed last week at the top and bottom of the street, and Erhart says she's hopeful this will be the answer to their problem.
“This was ultimately the best solution,” she says. “It was the least expensive from among the options out there, and research shows it is effective in getting drivers to slow down.”
City Council member jeff leroy, who also sits on the Public Safety Committee, which actively worked with the homeowners, says he was encouraged to see how citizen engagement could lead to a positive outcome for all concerned.
“This was truly local government at work,” says LeRoy. “They came to us with their problem. We worked through potential solutions and arrived at what we thought was the best one for the homeowners and the city.”
Erhart said she was happy the process yielded a potential solution, and says the city did its due diligence to make sure they were making the best decision.
“They weren't pushovers,” she says. “We needed to have our facts straight, and they took their time to investigate the best solutions from their perspective. In the end, I think we both came to the same conclusion.”