Kingsport BMA reviews traffic-calming plan

Matthew Lane • May 1, 2007 at 12:30 PM

Traffic-calming devices like this traffic circle in Ridgefields are aimed at slowing speeders and reducing ‘cut-through’ traffic on neighborhood streets.


KINGSPORT - Kingsport's public works department has crafted a traffic-calming plan that aims to slow down speeders and reduce "cut-through" traffic on neighborhood streets.

During a work session Monday afternoon, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen heard a presentation on the Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan. Public Works Director Ryan McReynolds said the plan outlines traffic-calming measures such as changes in street alignment and the installation of barriers to reduce vehicle speed and cut-through traffic volumes in neighborhoods.

City leaders have been asked to review the plan, offer suggestions and then vote on the plan at the June 5 regular meeting.

The 20-page plan has been in the works for years and is meant to provide the public information on traffic-calming measures and procedures followed by Kingsport's transportation planning department. The plan includes definitions, advantages, disadvantages and costs of 12 different traffic-calming measures and the process involved to install such measures in a neighborhood.

"Traffic calming has been a tool some cities have used for years to deal with safety and livability of communities," said McReynolds. "It's also an area of interest within the community, when people have issues that are real within their neighborhoods. They look toward the city to at least provide options for solutions, and that's where we're trying to close the gap."

A quick review of how the process works is first someone submits a request to the city for a traffic-calming study at a particular location. The city then collects preliminary information (the average daily traffic volume, number of speeders and cut-through traffic) to determine if the project warrants further study.

Once complete, the request would be ranked, and if funding were available a plan would be crafted to address the problems in the neighborhood. Along the way the city would hold an open house meeting to answer any questions from the public.

Some of the traffic-calming measures the city could install - either permanently or temporarily - include:

•Speed humps - rounded raised areas placed across the roadway where very low speeds are desired.

•Raised crosswalks - locations where pedestrian crossings occur at haphazard locations and vehicle speeds are excessive.

•Chicanes - curb extensions that alternate from one side of the street to the other, forming S-shaped curves.

•Chokers - curb extensions at mid-block locations that narrow a street by widening the sidewalk or planting strip.

"When people have the perception of a problem with excessive speed on their street, they will bring the general complaint that is somewhat subjective into a very objective plan where the end products are more measurable than just a subjective complaint about the perception of speed," McReynolds said, adding the primary emphasis is to bring the reasonable driver underneath the speed limit through self-policing devices. "We don't want to arbitrarily disrupt the flow of traffic. We want to have a good standardized, objective program established."

During Monday's work session Alderman Pat Shull asked if the city had a list of candidate roads or intersections.

City officials said some residents have raised the issue of speed and volume of traffic along Watauga Street. Other potential candidates include portions of Sevier Avenue, Lewis Lane and Ridgefields Road.

McReynolds said staff plugged the information about Watauga Street into the plan's ranking system and found it to be a candidate for the traffic-calming measures.

Mayor Dennis Phillips said the plan was "all well and good," but added the people of Watauga Street just want the problems fixed.

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