Public Works Committee Meeting (11/12/2014)

Excerpts from the Public Works Committee Meeting Minutes, November 12, 2014 (emphasis added) –

 

PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE

The Public Works Committee of the City of Raleigh met in regular session on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, at 4:00 p.m. in the City Council Chamber, Room 201 of the Raleigh Municipal Building, Avery C. Upchurch Government Complex, 222 West Hargett Street, Raleigh, North Carolina with the following present:

Committee
Councilor Eugene Weeks, Chairman
Councilor John Odom
Councilor Wayne Maiorano

Staff
Public Works Director Carl Dawson
City Attorney Thomas McCormick
Assistant Public Utilities Director Kenneth Waldroup
Senior Traffic Engineer Jed Niffenegger

These are summary minutes unless otherwise indicated.

.  .  .  .  .  .

Policy issues were addressed, including “a lengthy discussion…[of] the petition process” –

 

Item #13-17 – Neighborhood Traffic Management Program – Policy Issues. Chairman Weeks indicated during the November 5, 2014 City Council meeting this item was referred to the Public Works Committee for further discussion.

Senior Traffic Engineer Jed Niffenegger gave a brief review of the City’s Traffic Calming program noting the program is citizen-driven, and went on to note speed bumps were the most effective traffic calming device. He stated there is no assessment involved with the program as all improvements take place within the right-of-way. He gave an overview of the pro0posed changes to the program including adding procedures to stop projects and/or remove existing traffic calming devices. He stated staff recommends retaining the 75 percent threshold for removal as well as approving new projects.

Mr. Odom questioned whether any other residents filed petitions for removal or stopping projects with Mr. Niffenegger responding Staff addresses petitions to remove some speed bumps, but not all within a project. He went on to compare the Traffic Calming petition process with the City’s parking petition process. Lengthy discussion took place regarding the petition process as well as how petitions are worded with Public Works Director Carl Dawson pointing out there are citizens who have stated the petition they signed was not why they signed the petition in the first place.

Mary Winstead, 3900 Hemsbury Way, utilized the following notes in expressing her concerns before the Committee:

Born in Raleigh and lived in Raleigh most of my life Raleigh with the exception for time away at school and living in Cary just after we were married until 2003 when we moved to Raleigh.

Believe it or not when Cary put in speed bumps on an adjacent street it had an impact on our decision to move to Raleigh.

We live along LHR and so we got the letter inviting us to the first meeting and the pamphlet and Mr. Fiorello will tell you I promptly emailed him to find out what was going on.

The first time I looked at the policy I saw there was room for improvement.

As time went on, it was evident that the policy needs a comprehensive overhaul – not band aids. Nevertheless I appreciate the opportunity to weigh in.

Initiating the Process

Clarify who can initiate the process: The pamphlet says “a citizen with concerns about speeding traffic on their street”.

Is it any citizen- so I can say I think the speed is too high on X road I just happened to be on this weekend?

This needs to be clarified.

 

Initial meeting

Section 2.3 states that “any management strategy shall require a clear demonstration of support of area residents prior to installation”.

It doesn’t say residents on the street — it says area residents

Everyone agrees that traffic calming is a potentially divisive issue — the way to alleviate the divisiveness to make the process inclusive and transparent- through communication, education, and information.

I have learned through my experience that if 2 things had occurred at that initial meeting, I wouldn’t have to be speaking to you right now.

If your goal is really to determine if there is a clear demonstration of support of area residents, this process would work much better if:

  •  1) All in the area of influence are invited to the initial meeting especially in a situation where area property owners have no choice but to travel on the road that is proposed for traffic

 

Under the current process, those in the area of influence are only informed that their daily routes are going to be effected after the petition process is complete and it has already been determined that treatments will be installed- in other words after it is a done deal.

 

Citizens, especially tax paying property owners, don’t like feeling excluded from the process and they ought not be excluded.

 

Knowledge is power – without information, citizens feel powerless and ignored.

 

  • 2) At the first meeting staff should give a realistic projection of what treatments and how many will be needed to meet their standards

 

At the time of the initial meeting staff has done their information gathering. I venture to say that nothing they learn very little if anything in the time from the receipt of the signed petition to the design meeting which changes their rough assessment of what they will recommend for the street. Be up front with that information so that folks are fully informed.

 

If at that first meeting we had all impacted folks had been invited and the staff had said based on our experience and our criteria, we believe we will be proposing 11 speed tables or 14 speed humps, I don’t believe we would need to be having this conversation.

 

Petition

 

Who may sign-

 

Currently 6.2 reads: “a property owner or an adult resident living at the property”.

 

I would propose that property owners (those persons on the deed) whose property is on the street and property owners whose property is accessed by first responders using the petitioning street as the primary route should sign -put another way- if first responders use the proposed TC street as a primary route to get to your home, you are included

 

That way – the people that pay the taxes are the ones making decisions about their property and signatures can be easily checked with the deeds of trust

 

Not “an adult living at the property”:

 

who is an adult – 16, 18

 

The present policy allows a teenager or a resident in a garage apartment to be the only signatory for a property to the exclusion of the property owners b/c only one signature /property-

 

Under the present policy, either a husband or wife can sign- and whoever signs first counts ­ so if they disagree – and this happens – one signature is discounted.

 

If you are going to allow retraction, then people need to be told up front that they can retract – presently that info is not in the brochure nor is it on the petition – there should be language on the petition that informs the signer that he/she may retract the signature within x amount of time

 

How do you evaluate petitions? 6.1 says staff shall follow “standard PWD petition evaluation criteria” – What is the criteria – I have inquired and don’t have an answer.

 

There needs to a process in place to process to validate- like an affidavit of the petitioner.

 

If the purported signature of a property owner is determined not to be his/her signature it should be removed from the petition and the count.

 

4.3.8 “If a street … returns a petition with insufficient signatures it shall be removed” -what is an insufficient signature – Does it mean the owner- does it mean not an adult?

 

Proposed 6.1.2 “Valid signatories: property owners, property managers, HOA officers or any adult resident living at the property”- Can only have one signature/ property – Can the HOA officer sign in lieu of the property owner? How does that work?

 

The policy needs to define what a valid petition is – the brochure says “once a valid petition is returned” -what is valid – is a petition that contains a purported forged signature valid- that needs to be addressed.

 

Instead of Opt out / Retraction– proposed by staff- We suggest a 2nd petition- after design that will be submitted to CC is finalized, then 75% of the property owners on the street and over 60% of those in area of influence must approve. Otherwise

 

Under the proposed change,

If 74% don’t want the traffic calming then the decision will be driven by the 26% who do, Only 26 drive it through.

 

Different signatories for petition 6.1.2. and retraction 6.2.

 

If those on initial pet have changed their minds after being fully informed and have design plan if you can show original pet. don’t have a majority of all the people on the road.

 

Minimum acceptable would be 51%.

 

Policy doesn’t make good neighborhoods but ensures that will have traffic calming.

 

Guenn Shaw, 4008 Laurel Hills Road, read the following prepared statement:

 

My name is Guenn Shaw and I live with my 100 year old mother at 4008 Laurel Hills road which is the house my parents moved into 67 years ago.

 

I signed the original petition. The petitioner told me that what I was approving was merely a study to investigate ways to calm traffic and that we would be presented with multiple designs that we would then vote on for approval and if we did not want the design we would not have it done.

 

I attended the first public meeting where all the community was invited at the Laurel Hills Community Center and was shocked to discover that the plans were for either 14 speed humps or 11 speed tables. Mr. Fiorello went on to explain that we would all have input but that input would not include removal of the bumps, just changing their position.   Someone even asked if we could decide we wanted just 3 instead of 14 and he said no, that will not happen. He also informed us this was a done deal and the only way it could be stopped was with a city council vote.

 

It seems to me that We should be allowed to cast our final vote AFTER the design is completed just as city council does. The answer to me is pretty simple. Present the design and then ask us to sign a second petition of support. If 75 percent support is achieved, then the project proceeds. If it doesn’t reach 75% it stops.

 

The proposal for 75% to sign a petition saying we do not approve of the plan implies that if 26% of the properties agree or did not sign, then the project proceeds. What I don’t understand is why you allow the minority to dictate something that the majority does not want? Especially when the traffic calming folks told us that they are not interested in installing speed bumps in neighborhoods that do not want them.

 

Thank you.

 

Neal Harrington, 4830 North Hills Drive, indicated he had several objections to the petition process and had expressed them before the City Council over the past 20 months. He asserted procedures have not been followed in the past and believes the new and proposed procedures will not be followed either. He addressed several items listed in the City’s Traffic Calming program brochure and expressed his objections and concerns. He proposed a 51% threshold instead of a 75% threshold for project removal.

 

Mr. Maiorano pointed out to Mr. Harrington his objections and concerns are part of the reason the item is before the Committee today and assured him the City Council is listening.

 

William Cromer, 4024 Balsam Drive, read the following prepared statement:

 

I am here before you because my home is located in the influence area of a current traffic calming project. As I learned about this project, I became aware of serious flaws in the NTMP process.

 

I was informed of the existence of the project at the preliminary design meeting. My reaction was shock and dismay – shock at how a project with such an impact on my neighborhood could have advanced so far without neighborhood involvement- and dismay at the assessment by city staff of the need for traffic calming on the subject street, Laurel Hills Road. I have lived at my current address since June, 1976 and have made tens of thousands of automobile trips on that road over the span of those 38 years.   I have never witnessed a single incident of excessive speed or reckless driving by my Laurel Hills neighbors. So my comments tonight will focus on the petition process and project prioritization process.

 

First I’ll cover the set of changes proposed by city staff:

 

Regarding Petition to Halt Process: adding a process to halt activity is a good idea, but requiring a petition with a minimum of 75% negative signatures is extremely unreasonable. In effect, this says that a project can move forward with only a 26% approval. A better alternative would be the following: when the city staff has a completed design, require a minimum 75% approval of the properties on the traffic calmed street, and a minimum 60% approval of the properties in the direct impact area. Define “direct impact area” as those properties whose primary route for first responders includes the traffic calmed street.

 

Regarding Mandatory Speed Reduction: I oppose automatically lowering the speed limit to 25 MPH. Instead, I recommend that vertical treatments be designed to support the official speed limit of the traffic calmed street.

 

Regarding Clarification of Petition Signatures: I recommend that only the property owners be permitted to sign traffic calming petitions. If multiple owners are on a deed, all must sign in agreement.

 

I would also like to mention several other improvements that should be made to the NTMP document:

 

Under 3.6 Traffic Calming Requests – Minor Projects: I recommend that the word “residents” be replaced by the term “property owners”. I also recommend that properties in the direct impact area be included.

 

Under 4.3.1 Installation of traffic calming …: The current document reads, “Installation of traffic calming devices may be considered for streets that meet any one of the following criteria:” I recommend that the word “any” be replaced by the word “all”. The reason for this change is that the current wording would permit traffic calming on streets that don’t have a safety problem.

 

Under 6.1.1 (petitions): This topic mentions” …properties along the street…”. I recommend that the wording be updated to exclude complexes such as gated communities which are served by their own private road network and are walled off from the traffic calmed street with tall chain link fences, walls, or other barriers. The individual properties are isolated from the traffic calmed street are not likely to experience the consequences of the project.

 

Under Appendix B – Traffic Calming Scoring Criteria: This topic shows the formula for arriving at a numerical score that is used to rank potential traffic calming projects. This whole topic is a joke; it is no better than rolling dice.

 

One category is Pedestrian Activity, worth 0 – 20 points. There are words in the NTMP that sound good about destinations, “… likely to generate a significant number of pedestrians crossing the traffic calmed street”, five points per destination. In practice, the city staff counts bus stops, banks, etc. that do not actually generate pedestrian activity on the traffic calmed street. So the computed score has no relevance to the actual pedestrian count.

 

Another category is Crash History, worth 0 – 10 points. Two points for every reported crash.

 

Is something wrong here? Five points for imaginary pedestrians and two points for each crash?

 

I recommend that the Pedestrian Activity category be eliminated from the scoring criteria because the city does not have a fair and accurate method for measuring it. Instead, I recommend that the weight of the Crash History category be increased to a range of 0 – 30 points, with a value of five points for each reported crash.

 

The major category is Speed, worth a maximum of 50 points. The speed data is based on a single 48 hour sample, and the staff assumes that the sample is representative of normal traffic for other days of the year. But if the sample is taken at an exceptional time, such as the week prior to Christmas, the data may not be representative of normal traffic.

 

I recommend that speed measurement methodology utilize more than a single sample, and that the Raleigh Police department be utilized in obtaining the samples. Samples must not be taken during periods of expected abnormal traffic activity.

 

Flaws in the traffic calming scoring criteria are a major problem, because they result in faulty positioning of projects on the priority list.

 

Doug Alexander, 4403 Laurel Hills Road, read the following prepared statement:

 

I do appreciate the opportunity to participate in the discussion. I have lived on Laurel Hills Road with my family for 36 years.

 

I am directly aware of only two traffic accidents on the road during that time (neither one apparently attributed to speed).

 

I inadvisably signed the initial petition for a study of traffic on Laurel Hills Rd which might identify improvements. (I thought there might be some improvements available and signed primarily in the interest of receiving ideas and benefitting from wider discussion).

 

I have asked to rescind my signature on that petition because:

 

Keyword: VARIETY- Although the city NTMP document promises “…a VARIETY of speed reduction strategies and techniques to achieve the program objectives.” the measures identified turned out to ALL be LITERALLY BUMPS IN THE ROAD !! (An extremely narrow and rigidly dictated prospect with many associated problems and not consistent with the broader promise of the city document).

 

Keywords: SOUND PRACTICES – The city NTMP document promises “…treatments shall be planned and designed in conformance with SOUND engineering and planning PRACTICES.” But the measures identified conflict with recommended practice stated in the Institute of Traffic Engineers (ITE) document Guidelines for the Design and Application of Speed Humps which states “Speed humps are usually recommended only on streets where the speed limit is 30 mph (50 km/h) or less.” (Speed humps are not compatible with the speed limit on Laurel Hills Road which is 35 mph).

 

There are numerous problems with speed humps (or the quite similar speed tables) such as:

 

Incompatibility with bicycle traffic.

 

Incompatibility with the slope of long steep hills and curves present on much of the road. Slowed access to the neighborhood by emergency vehicles (ITE guidelines indicate vehicles typically slow to 20 mph to negotiate a speed hump).

 

Interference with snow or ice removal and tendency of the humps to be hit by snow plows. Associated with snowfall also the roads become more impassable than normal because cars have to negotiate the speed humps present in addition to maintaining traction. This is particularly problematic on hilly and curvy Laurel Hills Road.

  • – there were at one point 3 vehicles stranded overnight in the road in front of my house after the (fairly small) snowfall early this year. Other cars managed to get up the hill only with a push from neighbors on foot (not possible if speed humps had been present).

 

Also it should be recognized that speed humps are not very effective on large trucks with large tires and suspensions designed for off-road use and the presence of speed humps may be ineffective in slowing down heavy trucks which occasionally pass through (dump trucks, cement trucks, etc.).

 

Many of these problems (and others) are pointed out in the ITE guidelines.

 

Further the decision to divide the project on Laurel Hills Road into two segments appears to be manipulative. This scheme has no substantial benefit and appears to place opposite ends of the street In adversarial positions where residents on either end have the opportunity to shift substantial traffic volume to the opposite end by adopting NTMP measures (or at least minimize their increase in traffic volume should the opposite end be led to adopt NTMP measures) – not conducive to a spirit of community.

 

If the plans for Laurel Hills Road are implemented as proposed a large portion of traffic in and out of Laurel Hills will likely shift to reach Edwards Mill Rd via Woodbine Rd and Old Post Rd. Residents on those streets will be in for a big surprise. They have as far as I know not been invited to any of the presentations or public discussions associated with this NTMP activity. (In general it is a very serious neglect to not include residents of directly impacted adjoining communities in the petition process and the planning process).

 

I hope you can find a way to adapt the city NTMP process and avoid all the problems associated with installing speed bumps or speed tables on Laurel Hills Road.

 

Amir Pirzadeh, 3608 Henrys Garden Lane, stated he did not sign the Laurel Hills Road petition, but was informed by his neighbor someone forged his signature. He expressed concern regarding the signature verification process.

 

Jane Johnson, 4205 Laurel Hills Road, presented the following proposed changes:

 

Suggested NTMP Process Changes

 

  1. The process should be modified so that a minimum of 75% of the people on the road approve AFTER the final design has been determined. But as an alternative, if the approval rating of original signers of the petition falls to 50% or below approval prior to construction, the project shall stop.

 

  1. The petition shall be sworn and include provisions, subject to penalty of perjury, that all signatures contained on the petition are valid and to the best of the submitter’s knowledge in compliance with the NTMP.

 

  1. If-any original signatures supporting the project are determined to be invalid then they shall be removed from the count. If the approval threshold drops below 75% then the project shall be halted immediately and the street removed from the project list and placed on the ineligible list. This will help to ensure that fraudulent/misrepresented behavior is not rewarded.

 

  1. Ideally, provisions should be required to the NTMP to include a minimum threshold of support from impacted properties that do not abut the project street but have no alternate access except over the project street (such as connecting cul-du-sacs and other land-locked streets which are now excluded from the petition process.)

 

  1. Signatures of all property owners (or their designee under a valid power of attorney) shall be obtained. Renters and other non-persons of the property (such as an adult child of the property owners) shall not be effective. (Currently renters and non­owners of real property are not allowed to encumber real property as such they should not be allowed to encumber real property with speed bumps).

Mrs. Johnson referred to e-mails posted on the City’s website by a petition gatherer stating the Laurel Hills project is still in process and not a done deal; however, at the community meeting Staff told her it was indeed a done deal. She stated allegations of potential or alleged signature forgeries should be investigated. She talked about the number of people who won’t be impaired by the speed bumps and expressed concern how she will be adversely impacted.

 

Jack Cozort, 2611 Glen Eden Drive, talked about how his neighborhood would be impacted by the Laurel Hills Road traffic calming project.

 

Mr. Maiorano indicated he found 16 points from today’s discussion he believes Staff should consider and suggested holding the item in Committee. He thanked members of the audience for their input, and made a motion to hold the item in Committee to give Staff time to address the concerns expressed today as well as solicit additional input from the Police and Fire departments.

 

Mr. Niffenegger talked about the Fire department scheduling trial runs for pre- and post-installation of traffic calming devices.

 

Mr. Odom talked about the need to finalize the design process with Mr. Niffenegger pointing out the placement of the proposed 14 speed humps were based on 500 foot spacing.

 

Public Works Director Carl Dawson indicated the City Clerk’s office received an e-mail from former City Council Member Marc Scruggs, who requested that his e-mail be included as part of the record of today’s meeting. Chairman Weeks stated the letter will be added to the minutes of today’s meeting. The body of the e-mail reads as follows:

 

First, I would like to commend the Public Works Committee for continuing to look for avenues that strengthen neighborhood safety, and applaud City Staff for their willingness to review traffic calming methods.

 

Several issues reported in today’s N&O appealed to me in contrast to the current method of installing or removing calming devices.

 

  • (a) The petition process needs to be revamped in its entirety for installation and removal.  Council has approved 7 calming devices on Alleghany. I live on Transylvania Avenue. Alleghany & Transylvania form a “T” intersection, and I was never notified as to a meeting nor included in a mailer. Yadkin Drive homeowners did get notification. Why? Expand notifications of intent.
  • (b) Traffic calming devices encourage creep. In the aforementioned case, once Alleghany is complete there is no doubt drivers will begin using Yadkin extended as a cut through in Country Club Hills. The result will be another request for calming devices. Then the Alamance Drive folks will come to you (if not already) and the creep goes on. Shelley and Cranbrook are another good example of creep.
  • (c) Rather than a street by street approach, let’s attack the problem by the neighborhood. A game plan for the entire neighborhood will save money, City Council time, and Staff time.
  • (d) Petitions for removal are a good idea.
  • (e) My Council initiated the Brentwood project. Our intent was a cost sharing program as opposed to 100% City funding.
  • (f) Fund more RPD motorcycle enforcement officers for speeders as well as the collection of data. $$$ saved by incorporating a neighborhood plan could finance more officers to be used on a rotational basis in neighborhoods.  1 staff member told me there was not a safe place for officers to collect empirical data on Alleghany. Yes, there is—Buncombe, Forsyth, and a Greenway entrance.
  • (g) Refer back to (b). The City has already installed an “ALL WAY STOP” at Forsyth & Alamance. That may work by itself and the other devices not needed. I can tell you I won’t go near a 3-way stop.
  • (h) Do take into account EMS responses. Fire Station 6 is included in the Parks Bond for remodeling and responds to our neighborhood—very quickly I might add. If Station 6 is temporarily moved as a result of construction, my guess is North Hills would respond. And how many devices will they have to contend with to get to our neighborhood???–Too many for a heart attack victim. You should ask staff to provide you with such scenarios in the initiation process of calming devices, including estimated response times when the secondary responding unit is used and/or is out due to a call.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Marc Scruggs

348 Transylvania Avenue

 

Chairman Weeks assured members of the audience the Council is interested in resolving this issue and expressed his appreciation for their coming to today’s meeting. He indicated the Council will work to find an equitable solution to this matter.

 

Mr. Maiorano’s motion to hold the item in committee was seconded by Mr. Odom and put to a vote that resulted in all members voting in the affirmative. Chairman Weeks ruled the motion adopted.