AUSTIN (KXAN) — The wait to get a speed bump installed in your neighborhood can take months, even years. But after more complaints surfaced in the last few months about how they’re installed, what’s called the Local Area Traffic Management Program was put on hold.
Now, the Austin Transportation Department (ATD) says there will be several changes to the program moving forward and what it means for those on the waiting list.
West Mary Street, from South Fifth Street to Seventh Street, is on a list of areas identified that will now need expanded public input before moving forward with a “traffic calming device” — like speed cushions. Speed cushions act as speed bumps, they’re just not asphalt. They’re plastic, and cheaper to install.
It’s in that area KXAN spoke with Talley Barnes, who lives on West Mary Street.
“This one is a pretty main thoroughfare as far as a shortcut goes,” he said. “Cars just coming up this hill, kind of flying by real fast.”
It’s been a problem for Barnes to even pull in and out of his driveway.
“I was coming back from Lamar, heading eastbound, and turning into my driveway here I had to make kind of a wide turn,” Barnes recalled. “When I made the turn into my driveway he kind of tried to pass me in the bike lane, so he scraped against my car and did some mechanical damage and some body damage.”
The Local Area Traffic Management Program is a complaint-based program. Any request for a device to slow drivers down requires the support of at least 60 percent of neighbors on both sides of the street. The city says it gets “tons” of requests but can only fund those deemed to be the most warranted.
ATD put the program on hold after receiving “substantial” citizen concerns from Jester Boulevard and Far West Boulevard, where KXAN has spoken with those in the area about the problem they have with installed speed cushions, Webberville Road and Mesa Drive.
As for Barnes, “I don’t really have any problem with speed bumps, I just have an issue with, you know, being notified.”
Notification — something many living in Jester Estates and traveling Far West Boulevard said they didn’t have.
Council Member Alison Alter is closely involved in the discussions and told KXAN, “There are people with disabilities who are experiencing difficulty, there were people who were experiencing difficulties because they had low transmissions, and there were people who were slowing down to 5 miles an hour and causing backups on traffic. There were also people calling up and saying, ‘We want more speed bumps!’ We have a speeding problem and we need to take care of it.”
Now, the transportation department plans to:
- Differentiate busier roads (collector and minor arterial streets) from neighborhood streets
- Have widespread notification
- Flag council members about projects in their district prior to construction
- Take people with special needs, like disabilities, into consideration
“It’s not good for us to be putting in traffic calming devices and creating divisiveness in the community. That can be avoided in changing the process and making sure that people are aware of what’s going on,” Alter said. “We have to be willing, as a city, to understand that sometimes speed cushions are not the solution to the problem that we really need to be addressing.”
ATD has a public meeting scheduled at the end of the month in Council Member Alter’s district. It says it plans to have another update on the speed bump situation then and changes that may be coming to areas where they’re already installed.