(TNS) -- Boulder transportation planners have presented a plan to change the process by which citizens can seek city-funded road treatments aimed at decreasing speeding in their neighborhoods.
The Neighborhood Speed Management Program, as it has been titled, would see Boulder's budget allot money for the first time in 14 years to street engineering, such as speed humps and roundabouts, in residential areas and on non-arterial roadways.
It would replace the existing Neighborhood Traffic Mitigation Program.
"We've tried to handle speeding traffic through educational tools and enforcement, and not through building physical mitigation," said Bill Cowern, the city's lead traffic engineer.
"This is an effort to bring that back, to acknowledge that we're not seeing the results that we would want to see, in terms of getting fewer people to speed on residential streets, simply through enforcement and education."
The city Transportation Advisory Board voted Monday night to recommend the program's adoption, and the Boulder City Council is schedule to deliberate on the matter starting Aug. 15.
Under the current proposal, the city would allot $300,000 per year for the program — about half, or more, of which would be spent on actual engineering. The rest of the money would be spent on the salary of a new program coordinator, consultant fees, data collection and community engagement, city staff says.
If half that amount is indeed approved for engineering work, it will be enough money to cover a modest amount of projects annually, according to Cowern. With $150,000 to spend, the city could install a series of smaller treatments, such as radars that go under speed-limit signs and tell drivers how fast they're going.
"If City Council decides we've asked for too little and they want to give us more money, we of course would love that," Cowern said of the proposed budget. "But we definitely are in challenging financial times and there's a lot of transportation priorities out there."
Under the $300,000 budget plan, fewer larger projects, such as roundabout construction, could be accomplished in a given year.
"You could easily spend $150,000 on a single complex project," Cowern said. "So we hope there aren't too many of those left."
Neighbors would be able to petition for traffic-calming work where they live by collecting signatures from 20 neighbors or 30 percent of households on the block. Eligibility would be limited to blocks where data shows 85 percent of vehicles travel at speeds greater than 3 miles per hour above the posted speed limit. The city limit is 25 miles per hour except where otherwise posted.
The current Neighborhood Traffic Mitigation Program, which would be replaced, has set the threshold at 6 miles per hour above the speed limit.
The program would also exclude arterial streets, such as Table Mesa Drive, Broadway or Folsom Avenue, which primarily are used by drivers passing through. Collector streets and residential streets, which lean toward local traffic, would be prioritized.
City staff say they hope that previous processes by which neighbors applied for traffic mitigation were more complicated than city staff hopes the new program would prove to be.
"It was a very bureaucratic program before," Cowern said. "It was very difficult for people to seek and ultimately receive mitigation on their street. We wanted this to be much simpler."
Even if the new plan is more user-friendly, however, projects will still be subject to public input and the judgment of city officials. The topic has proved to be contentious in the past, as neighbors will very often oppose calming treatments because they do not perceive the same problems or harbor the same levels of concern as other people in their areas.
While the Transportation Advisory Board is supportive of the program, it did offer some suggestions for changes the City Council might consider in August.
Member Tila Duhaime, for one, said she feels it would be unfair to force petitioners to seek signatures only from those with addresses on their blocks, since people who, say, drop off their kids or frequently visit a park in a certain area may also be invested.
"(Neighbors) should not have the only say about whether the process goes forward," Duhaime said, adding that she felt the one-block petitioning area is too small.
Her colleagues and city staff appeared receptive at various levels to the idea that the petition thresholds might be amended, and the matter will have to be resolved by the council.
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