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Little interest; Council cool to traffic plan assessment

By Staff | Apr 21, 2017

Making sure the roads are safe is one of the most important jobs the city has but asking residents to pay extra for that would be inappropriate, Cape Coral City Council officials said Wednesday.

The consensus came during a special workshop meeting as City Manager John Szerlag discussed a proposal for a special assessment for residential streets that require “calming devices” such as painted lines on the roadway, speedbumps and radar trailers.

It was something that residents on Southeast 17th Street were watching with interest, as their street was suggested as test area for ways to slow down traffic.

Szerlag was looking to Council for approval regarding traffic calming devices on residential streets as requested by citizens and some policy direction.

Staff recommended cost sharing through a special assessment to install “calming” devices such as .

“It’s not about bad roads. It’s about bad drivers,” Szerlag said as Bill Corbett, traffic engineer, further explained the plan via a presentation.

For those on Southeast 17th Street, the discussed 20-year per property assessment would cost residents about $82 annually, provided enough residents responded and agreed something needed to be done.

Basically, as proposed, roads would be graded on a point system based on volume and prevailing speed. The higher the score, the more necessary calming solutions would be deemed needed, and the more the city would pay for them.

A score less than 20 would result in residents bearing the full cost of calming. A score of 20 and 29 would result in a 75-25 split in cost between the residents and city with a 50/50 share for scores 30 and above.

Targeted enforcement of current speed limits as well as reducing the speed limits from 30 to 25 mph on residential roads were discussed.

When the city council members were asked for opinions, they said the city needs to bear responsibility for the roads and traffic, not the citizens.

“To have residents bear all the responsibility isn’t right. If there’s a score above 30, then the city needs to step in and change the roadway,” Councilmember Richard Leon said. “I’d like to see the city bear the responsibility.”

“We want great customer service, but not customized service. If you want that, you have to pay for it over a period of time,” Szerlag said. “We’re not here to argue, we’re here to create a policy for the city.”

Leon and Councilmember Jessica Cosden said they would also recommend residents bearing the full cost of traffic calming if the matrix indicates a score below 10.

On Southeast17th Street, according to the data collected, the use of a radar speed signs and lining the roads caused the speed to drop from 36.5 mph on a road with a 30 mph speed limit, down to 26.5 on a road that has an average of 1,800 cars per day.

Most on the council believed that simply dropping the speed limit to 25 mph, as they do in most other areas of the country, would help. Szerlag said that would be up to Council to decide and he would ask to council to consider that before hiatus.

“Changing behavior makes the most sense. We can make it 25 with the stroke of a pen and make a statement,” Councilmember Jim Burch said. “It’s long overdue and our streets are a problem that will only get worse.”

As for the residents on Southeast 17th Street, Chip Greene said the speed and volume issue dates back five years when people discovered it was a way to bypass Del Prado Boulevard. The police and city government have tried to help, to no avail.

“Traffic enforcement didn’t work, lining didn’t work regardless of what they say. What has worked are the radar signs, but they work better northbound than southbound,” Greene said.

Greene added the road is still a racetrack during peak hours, where Greene said people are speeding down the road only to get stuck in traffic at the Midpoint Bridge.

“I think there will be a push to lower the speed limit to 25, and to put speed bumps on both sides of the street. That will go a long way toward diverting the traffic,” Greene said.