Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Bump in the Road

Posted By on Tue, Dec 1, 2009 at 3:09 PM

The Memphis City Council wants the administration to consider letting affluent neighborhoods pay for their own traffic calming devices, if the street qualifies.

This morning, during the council's CIP budget committee, council members learned citizens have requested street humps for roughly 250 streets. The current policy does not let individual groups pay for them, even if they want to do so.

"We looked at it from a fairness [standpoint]," said Wain Gaskins, director of the city's engineering division. "There are some affluent areas that could pay for their traffic calming devices, but we have a lot of other areas that aren't as affluent but are just as deserving.

"We thought it would be appropriate not to let people buy their way into the program."

The policy is created by the administration, but traditionally changes have been approved by the council.

During the last budget cycle, the council approved $600,000 for street humps, but it's been more than five months since then. The administration is ready to install humps on five streets, but the rest still have to be studied to see if they meet the criteria the city requires for the devices.

"Are you frustrated that it takes almost five months to do five streets, basically," council member Harold Collins asked Gaskins. "Are you not concerned that people of the community are saying this is the problem with government?"

Collins, Shea Flinn, and Kemp Conrad suggested letting private citizens pay for their own street humps, if they wanted.

"I understand the fairness issue." Flinn said, "Wouldn't it make it more fair to everyone if less resources are used in communities that can do it for themselves? That creates more resources for the communities that can't. ... That seems like a win-win."

Though street humps have been requested for more than 250 streets, Gaskins said that generally only 15 to 20 percent of all streets meet the criteria. Even if private homeowners were allowed to pay for the street humps, the street would still have to meet the city's criteria.

Barbara Swearengen Ware suggested that traffic calming devices weren't the real solution.

"It's my opinion that a lot of streets that have them don't need them. They're trying to stop people from speeding, but the police should be doing that," she said. "A lot of neighborhoods get speed bumps and then they're not happy to have them.

"They thought it was the best thing since ice cream until they got them."

The council will discuss this in more detail in a month.

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