(ran East, South editions)
It has taken seven years, but Mangrove Bayou residents may finally get their speed bumps.
The speeds in this northwestern nook by Shore Acres do tend to raise eyebrows. A one-day study showed that 41 percent of the drivers on Bayou Grande Boulevard exceeded the speed limit.
Worse, 43 cars went 60 mph or faster on this curvy road that has a speed limit never exceeding 30. Seven hit 75 mph.
Whatever the neighborhood's traffic committee proposes will require the approval of affected neighbors and the city, but leaders find reason for hope on both counts in this small community near the east end of 62nd Avenue NE.
While few neighbors talk of traffic calming as a panacea for all speeding, speed bumps might prevent the scare Ruth Reed got Monday evening while taking her trash container to the curb.
"I was halfway down the driveway, and I saw a car fishtailing and not slowing down," said Reed, who lives on Bayou Grande. "I was afraid to walk down to the street. I thought I would be nailed at my trash can."
Getting the approval for a traffic plan should be easier among these residents, who split off from neighboring Shore Acres in 2003 over traffic calming. Theresa Rae Gay, who as a Shore Acres member led two unsuccessful fights for the devices in 1998 and 2000, leads the Mangrove Bayou traffic committee.
"We live in a really nice neighborhood. You wouldn't think it should be like living on Fourth Street."
Transportation leaders also met with Shore Acres leaders in 2004. That association is in the preliminary stages of taking another run at traffic calming.
To decide who gets traffic calming, the city uses a formula, the Hazard Exposure Index, which factors in traffic volume, speed, pedestrians and the number of crashes. Areas deemed most dangerous go to the top of the list. While not the most hazardous the city has recorded since coming up with the formula (that distinction goes to Causeway Isles), Mangrove Bayou's problem is at least as bad as that of the crop slated for traffic calming devices this year, Michael Frederick, a neighborhood transportation manager, said Tuesday.
Repeated requests from residents prompted the city to study traffic in Mangrove Bayou and Shore Acres, said Joe Kubicki, the city's director of transportation and parking. The drivers there gave officials an eyeful.
"We were seeing vehicles going 40, 50, 60 mph on those roadways," Kubicki said. "It was horrendous."
Instead of waiting for a plan, around January 2004 the city installed a handful of traffic-slowing devices along Venetian Boulevard and Bayou Grande Boulevard in Mangrove Bayou, and on Denver Street NE in Shore Acres.
The city asked police to stake out the area, but high speeds continued.
In April, a city study along the 6100 block of Bayou Grande counted 6,773 cars in 24 hours _ 2,782 of which were breaking the 30 mph limit.
"That study was done on a Thursday," said Tony Witlin, who lives on Bayou Grande. "It is much worse on weekends."
After Shore Acres residents twice voted down traffic calming proposals she had led, Rae Gay and neighbors pulled away from the association. In April 2003 they formed the Mangrove Bayou Neighborhood Association for the 120 households on the northwestern tip of what had been Shore Acres.
Although Mangrove Bayou was recognized by the city as an independent association, the Shore Acres Civic Association did not vote to sanction the split until January 2004. Until that happened, Mangrove Bayou could not start its own traffic plan without violating Shore Acres bylaws, Rae Gay said.
Now neighbors will approach residents looking for the two-thirds signoff required by residents for traffic calming to be considered on a particular street. Then they will develop a traffic calming plan, which would require a majority vote of residents in the neighborhood.
"We expect that it will happen, and we don't expect a problem within the neighborhood," Rae Gay said.
Traffic calming devices do not solve all problems. Jayme Klappernice lives on Venetian Boulevard, by Ohio Avenue N, next to a final speed bump before a long straightaway. Drivers skirt the speed bump and veer into her yard.
"I have so many tire ruts in my yard, it's unbelievable," Klappernice said.
And traffic calming is not always popular with police and fire departments, as a quick glance at the Internet will attest in grass-roots opposition groups across the country.
"I know fire doesn't like it because it slows their response time down," said police Officer Richard Grimberg. "So it would slow our response time. But what are you going to do? How do you measure getting to calls for service against how many kids' lives are you saving?"
Asked if firefighters are fond of speed bumps, Deputy Fire Marshal Rick Feinberg said, "We love them if they tell us to love them. You know what I mean?" Feinberg declined additional comment.
Several cities have studied the influence of traffic calming on emergency response vehicles. A 1996 study in Portland found that each traffic calming device caused fire vehicles as much as 9.4 extra seconds, and traffic circles added more than an 11-second delay.
In Shore Acres, it's anyone's guess why speeding has reached its current level.
"If you live out in Venetian Isles or Shore Acres, it's a long way to get to the commercial centers," Kubicki said. "You end up driving those streets a couple of times a day, and after a while I think you kind of lose track of how fast you're going."