Monday, March 10, 2014

Why The Radar Speed Signs Were Placed Recently On NE 45th Street And Next Steps

Two radar speed signs on NE 45th Street

Two radar speed signs were placed by SDOT last week on NE 45th Street on the south side of Laurelhurst Elementary School and were removed earlier today, one day earlier than the one week SDOT scheduled timeframe.  
The signs placed almost directly across from each other in between 46th and 47th Avenues NE, were in response to an application submitted by Steve Clark and Paul Hanson, in conjunction with the City's School Traffic Management Program.  

The two Laurelhurst Elementary school fathers also submitted an application for the Neighborhood Park and Street Fund for either radar signs and/or flashing yellow  lights.

The large radar signs were originally placed almost directly across from each other in between 46th and 47th Avenues NE and were later moved  abit further away from each other after residents cited safety concerns when two cars were passing at the same time around the machines.
Steve and Paul cited in their application that there was "excessive speed and lack of awareness of pedestrians around Laurelhurst Elementary during school hours."
He added that the program would address safety needs "by reducing vehicle speeds and awareness of the presence of children during school hours." 

SDOT told our staff that "the speed trailers display to drivers the speed at which they are traveling and the school zone speed limit, in order to remind them to follow traffic laws. The school zone speed limit – 20 MPH – is in effect when children are present."
When children are not present, the speed limit on residential streets is 25mph and on arterials 35mph. 

An SDOT speed study conducted in January showed that during the high traffic school hours between 8-9am there was on average about 25% of cars going between 21-30mph,  27.9% going 21-24mph, 25% going 24-27mph and 22.7% going 27-30mph.

From 3-4pm when children would be leaving school there was on average about 25% of cars going between 21-30mph, 23% going 18-21mph, 21% going 21-24mph, 16% going 24-27mp and 10% going 27-30mph.

The average speed over 24 hours shows 23.9mph and maximum speed shows 0.1% of 7,686 cars going 65.2mph.

Several parents told us, and are staff verified, that the majority of the school pedestrian and vehicle traffic are during very small timeframes - between 9-9:15am and 3:10-3:25pm and that there are between 2-4 student flaggers helping pedestrians cross the well-marked crosswalks on all four corners of the school.
Mike, a parent told us, that before and after those drop-off and pick-up school times, the traffic immediately around the school is very quiet.  

He added that he has not seen cars speeding on the one block stretch of NE 45th Street where the radar signs were placed as cars are just coming up hills in both directions and can't get a lot of speed right after that.
Mike said he is much more concerned with traffic speed on 46th Avenue NE at all times of the day and secondarily on 47th Avenue NE.
"I would rather see speeds addressed on these two streets, then the random placement of the radar signs on NE 45th Street that are there temporarily and don't address permanent traffic patterns and safety at all times of the day, not only during the few minutes of the high traffic area at the school.
We heard from other residents that this area has perhaps enough safety aids, with the student flaggers, permanent Speed Zone signs, and well-marked crosswalks at all the 4 corners of the school, 46th and 47th Avenues NE and NE 47th Street, as well as the NE 45th Street pedestrian overpass.
Another driver commented that cars going eastbound and westbound, are not generally able to pick up a lot speed on this flat stretch where the radar signs are, because in both directions cars have just come up a hill and thus are not going at a high rate of speed causing a safety concern exactly where the signs are.

Many other comments received from morning commuters and those going to and from the school, was that the radar caused more of a safety hazard and "chaos" rather than a visual aid.

Other drivers reported, as mentioned before, that with the trailers placed almost directly across from each other in either direction, that drivers were forced to cross into the oncoming lane to get around the trailers. And when two cars or large vehicles passed at the same time the drivers reported feeling unsafe.

Another driver told us that when driving at night and the machines were off it was very hard to see that the machine was even there and the driver had to stop suddenly and another driver had to quickly swerve to miss it.
And another driver told us that his "wife came home upset saying that she came within inches of an accident with the positioning of those portable speed monitors
Another nearby resident asked why the radar speed sign was there, adding "when I drove through the Laurelhurst Elementary School area there were so many kids with flags, orange cones and calming devices you couldn't drive fast if you tried."  

A resident near NE 41st Street, also known as Suicide Hill said "this radar sign is what we have been crying out for with the many near collisions, documented accidents, excessive speeding and poor visibility."

Another neighbor said "it’s much more dangerous on Suicide Hill and the speeds are clocked at much, much higher levels that that one block area on NE 45th Street and perhaps the parents involved submitted the report are overdoing it."

An email Steve Clark sent to the School Office stated:
Since October of 2013 the SDOT has been consulting with members of the PTA suggesting improvement to areas within school boundaries. Speed studies, changes to landscape, repainting of traffic lines and cross walks around the school have been done or on the schedule for 2014.  Members of the PTA will continue to work with the SDOT to evaluate traffic patterns on 47th Ave NE and 46th Ave NE in the future.

The Northeast District Council will formerly decide in April, between this and three other requested traffic safety and park projects, based on stack ranking and available City budgets against cost for each project.


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