(ran East edition)
About a dozen outraged homeowners met county engineers at Countryway Boulevard and Snapdragon Road last week to glimpse the unfolding plans for a steel-plated guardrail that neighbors don't want, yet the county says they need.
Runaway cars have pummeled a brick wall outside the Woodlands subdivision so many times that the homeowners are demanding that the county install some type of traffic calming device at that location.
The problem is, they don't agree with the county's solution to the problem.
"We're clamoring for a permanent solution, not a steel Band-Aid," said Michael Washington, president of the Woodlands subdivision. "It'll be a royal waste of taxpayers' money."
The homeowners would prefer a four-way stop sign at Countryway and Memorial Highway. If that can't be done, they say they'll settle for a "narrowing of the road."
They're complaining that a guardrail would be ugly. They also plan to petition against it based on safety concerns on the grounds that a guardrail could throw a vehicle back out onto the road.
Several of the neighbors left work early for the meeting Thursday. Some brought their children along.
The last time they all met at that corner was following a well-publicized crash at the location on Nov. 10. That time, County Commissioner Kathy Castor joined them to hear their concerns.
This time, the neighbors were grilling county engineers with questions about why they had to have a guardrail, what it would look like, and what other options they have. But the county workers couldn't give them the answers they wanted to hear.
"The Federal Highway Administration prohibits the use of a four-way stop for speed control," said Peter Brett of the county's Traffic Division. "It can only be used to control the traffic."
Still, it just doesn't make sense to Bill Christie, former president of the Countryway Master Homeowner Association.
"I know that most residents believe a four-way stop is the best and easiest solution," Christie said.
As simple as it seems and although the cost would be about $200 for two stop signs, the engineers explained to the homeowners that there are laws and ordinances that control intersections and that according to those this intersection does not warrant a four-way stop.
Ironically, a guardrail isn't warranted at that location under those ordinances either. But the county says this one is only temporary.
Public works officials instructed engineers to design this one in the interest of public safety until traffic calming studies are done. The temporary guardrail could stay there anywhere from six months to two years depending on funding, construction costs and the importance of the issue.
"The installation of the guardrail is clearly a knee-jerk reaction to Commissioner Castor's visit," said James Kannard, a Countryway board member.
But Pat Kemp, an aide to Castor, says she was not aware that a guardrail was being installed. She added, however, that the project is high on Castor's list of priorities.
All of this could mean going back to the drawing board for engineers.
Accidents are happening at the intersection despite deputies on motorcycles and in unmarked cars who enforce the 30 mph speed limit.
Sheriff's records list more than 30 crashes at Countryway and Snapdragon since 1999, including six direct hits to the Woodlands wall. Another 17 accidents occurred at Countryway and Memorial Highway.