Council approves speed humps for Southeast 75th Street corridor

August 6, 2015

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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NEW — 2:36 p.m. Aug. 6, 2015

Newcastle resident Jo Ann Pancheri often sits in her home, peering out the window, clutching her phone and waiting for the worst.

Her house sits at the intersection of Southeast 75th Street and 125th Place Southeast, a corridor where neighbors have repeatedly asked for traffic-calming measures.

Pancheri has an unobstructed view to the speeding and near-miss accidents that community members say plague the neighborhood.

“I wait every day with my phone waiting to call 911,” she told the Newcastle City Council on July 21, illustrating her fear of witnessing a major accident.

Neighbor after neighbor told similar stories of heart-pounding close calls and a reluctance to let children play in the front yard due to speeding concerns.

“This is an accident waiting to happen,” resident Laura Peterson said. “I would hate to see changes being made because there’s been a tragedy that has occurred on our street.”

The community wanted speed humps installed, and residents have relayed that message to the council at more than one town-hall meeting and past council meetings.

This time, however, residents got their wish. At its July 21 meeting, the Newcastle City Council directed its public works department to install speed humps on the Southeast 75th Street corridor.

“We’ve talked about it a lot, we put money aside to do something and now I think it’s time to do something,” Newcastle City Councilman Rich Crispo said.

The council voted 5-1 in favor of the speed humps, despite Public Works Director Jeff Brauns’ earlier presentation that suggested alternative measures. Councilwoman Carol Simpson was the lone dissenter, while Deputy Mayor John Drescher was not in attendance.

Data collected did not support the installation of speed humps, Brauns said.

While studies show that the traffic volume has increased on the corridor that includes 125th Place Southeast, Southeast 75th Street, 127th Place Southeast and Southeast 73rd Place, Brauns said speed data shows that the majority of vehicles are going the speed limit.

“The data doesn’t show that there’s a significant problem,” he told the council.

The posted speed limit on the street is 25 mph. At various points across the corridor, the city recorded 85th percentile speeds of 23, 24, 25 and 26 mph in 2015, Brauns said.

The 85th percentile speed is the speed at or below which 85 percent of all vehicles are observed to travel under free flowing conditions.

Brauns suggested installation of wide-edge striping, neighborhood traffic circles and initiation of a speed-watch program as alternative solutions.

He added that the city’s practice has been to look at speed humps when the 85th percentile speed is about 5 mph above the posted speed limit.

The city has $75,000 allotted for traffic-calming measures. Speed humps cost about $10,000 each, Brauns said. The exact number of speed humps to be installed on the corridor is currently unknown.

Traffic volume on the corridor has increased, though, and that could continue with new development planned in the area.

Residents said they believe drivers are attracted to the corridor because it doesn’t have the traffic-calming measures that neighboring streets do.

“For me, it’s more about diversion,” City Councilwoman Lisa Jensen said of the speed humps.

Slowed speeds is certainly a benefit, Jensen added, but she said she hopes the speed humps also discourage those who have used the corridor as a “faster” way to get out of the neighborhood.

Simpson, the only council member to vote against the motion, earlier angered neighbors when she said, “I’m getting tired of driving over speed humps. I’m getting tired of paying for bills for my car repair,” at the town hall meeting in June.

At the July 21 council meeting, Simpson said speed humps are a “low-quality solution to the problem.” Really, what that street needs is full sidewalks from Donegal Park to 129th Avenue Southeast, she said.

Simpson also suggested to neighbors that they would likely regret their call for speed humps after frequently using them.

Neighbors in attendance clapped in approval once the 5-1 vote for speed humps was completed.

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