Public works seeks funds to calm neighborhood traffic

Roundabouts, improved sidewalks on list of fixes

Posted 9/10/18

Littleton’s Public Works department will request $25,000 annually from the city budget to gear toward traffic-calming efforts, years after a similar fund dwindled to zero. The move comes as part of …

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Public works seeks funds to calm neighborhood traffic

Roundabouts, improved sidewalks on list of fixes

Posted

Littleton’s Public Works department will request $25,000 annually from the city budget to gear toward traffic-calming efforts, years after a similar fund dwindled to zero.

The move comes as part of increasingly invigorated efforts on the part of city staff and elected officials to address traffic, congestion and parking issues in Littleton, which consistently sit at the top of surveys of citizen concerns.

City Public Works Director Keith Reester discussed the potential uses of the funds at the Sept. 4 city council study session, which could cover the cost of a host of traffic-control devices in residential areas.

The funds would not address traffic-congestion issues on major arterial streets, which are the subject of other city studies and surveys. City Manager Mark Relph said last year that the cost of addressing congestion in areas like Santa Fe Drive could soar into the millions of dollars.

Instead, Reester said, the money could lend itself to safer and more efficient traffic flow in neighborhoods, addressing issues like speeding, unsafe pedestrian walkways or poorly marked streets.

“We’re dealing with years of inconsistent installation (of traffic control devices),” Reester said. “We’ve had a history of putting in four-way stops to control speed, not always in areas where they’re needed, which causes people to roll through some of those stop signs.”

A more comprehensive approach, Reester said, could involve judicious use of traffic control devices like roundabouts, traffic circles, widened sidewalks, medians and other low-maintenance methods. Speed bumps are falling out of favor because they can inhibit the rapid response of emergency vehicles and frustrate immediately adjacent residents due to increased vehicle noise, he added.

The trouble, Reester said, is that deciding what goes where requires many person-hours of study. To that end, Reester would like to up the threshold for areas that would demand a review by city staff.

The current criteria for review include that a minimum of 30 percent of the vehicles on a street exceed the posted speed limit by 5 mph or more.

Reester would like to see the numbers changed to a minimum of 25 percent of vehicles exceeding the speed limit by 9 mph or more.

The idea, he said, is to ensure that city staff are focusing their efforts on the highest-priority areas, rather than being spread too thin studying too many stretches of road.

“When we talk about traffic calming, it’s a big resource take,” Reester said.

The city has already taken steps toward addressing traffic woes in recent years, such as the formation of a traffic safety committee earlier this year consisting of city staff and police, Reester said, as well as adding positions in Public Works dedicated to traffic management and transportation planning.

The big picture is that Littleton needs a comprehensive transportation master plan, Reester said, which is high on city council’s list of priorities in the coming year.

Councilmembers largely expressed support of Reester’s goals, with some wondering if $25,000 a year was enough.

“Traffic is a number one concern of our citizens,” said Councilmember Karina Elrod. “There are more people moving in than moving out. I don’t want to get into a routine of just chasing this. I want to get ahead of these problems.”

Mayor Debbie Brinkman was also open to making sure traffic calming efforts were sufficiently funded.

“Underfunding anything is just wasting money,” Brinkman said. “I wonder, too, about the education and outreach piece … as population increases, so does acceptance of things like roundabouts. We tend to talk in terms of 20-year plans, but these need to be more like five-year plans.”

Regardless, traffic concerns are unlikely to be solved for good, said Councilmember Kyle Schlachter.

“Traffic and congestion were top issues back in the early ‘90s, too,” Schlachter said. “It’s not new, and it’s not going away.”

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