Monday, August 22, 2011

Speed Table and Curb Extensions Coming to Edwards Street in New Haven; Will Foster Community

Original Post 12/9/2010: East Rock neighbors are excited about a new traffic calming system that will be built at the corner of Livingston and Edwards Street in New Haven. Speed tables and curb extensions, like the one proposed here by the City of New Haven under its Complete Streets program, have been shown worldwide to be highly effective at reducing speeds, improving driver safety, and increasing pedestrian comfort levels. They are also used in many cities with much snowier climates than New Haven. The Livingston Street system will be located just one block from Whitney Avenue, which one of the neighborhood's elected representatives recently called a "local access highway" that contributes to speeding in the area. The neighborhood's Community Management Team has enthusiastically supported calls for more progressive traffic planning as well.

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, for example, prior a similar traffic calming improvement, the 85th percentile speed on Berkshire Street was 30 mi/h, and only 41 percent of vehicles surveyed were traveling at or below the 25 mi/h speed limit. After the improvements, the 85th percentile speed was reduced to 21 mi/h at the vertical traffic calming devices and 24 mi/h in between, and 95 percent of vehicles were going at or below the speed limit. Similar results have been found after the installation of speed tables in other cities. The photo shown here is an example of a tabled intersection with curb extensions (or bump outs), taken from an online Bucknell Traffic Calming library.

Interestingly, the New Haven Independent reports that neighbors asked the City of New Haven not to repave the street recently, because they believed that the lumpy pavement served as a traffic calming device. This is not an unusual solution: in many cities and towns throughout the world, local governments trying to curb the extremely deleterious impacts of speeding traffic on neighborhood health have allowed or encouraged dirt pathways (or lumpy asphalt) in the automobile travel lanes, while paving smooth sidewalks and bike lanes for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Indy article mentions that the new device will not only curb speeds, it will help build a sense of community. Furthermore, it sounds like some of the neighbors have ideas for what to build next. Frank Chapman, who has lived a couple doors away from the intersection for more than 30 years, is profiled in the story:

An architect and former deputy head of the City Plan Department, Chapman said he’s wholeheartedly behind the speed table. Edwards Street is about a mile long, with only two non-T intersections between State and Prospect Streets, Chapman said. “The blocks are long,” and drivers take advantage of that to step on the gas, Chapman said. “It’s an invitation for cars to go fast.” From his living room on Edwards Street, where he and his wife have lived since 1978, Chapman called the speed table a “brilliant plan.”

He said he and his neighbors are committed to maintaining flowers or evergreen shrubs planted in the new medians. “We think it will have a very positive effect on slowing traffic,” he said. Next, Chapman has his eye on the intersection of Edwards and Orange Streets, where he said a roundabout should be installed. “I laid it out and I know it would work.”

We hope that Chapman's vision, which sounds similar to neighborhood traffic calming master plans that have been under development in Dwight, Westville and Fair Haven, can be realized as soon as possible!

Update 7/28/2011: The large traffic calming project, which includes medians and a raised intersection, is now under construction. The related SeeClickFix issue has been closed.

Update 8/22/2011: The New Haven Independent has a story on the completion of the traffic calming system (see photo above). According to the Mayor of New Haven, "It’s the 360 State of Edwards Street. It’s a game changer." A neighbor living next to the intersection, who plans to help garden it, told the paper that she’s "delighted and thrilled" about the new intersection (but half-jokingly suggested that the circle in the middle could be a public park and fountain). For information on how successful miniature traffic circles have been in Seattle, both in terms of reducing injuries (virtually by 100%) and promoting community, see this excellent article in the Road Management and Engineering Journal.

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