KINGSPORT — Raised crosswalks and rumble bars have been approved for Shady Side Drive, and city officials held a public hearing this week on whether or not to install similar traffic calming devices along Essex Drive and Suffolk Street.
Kingsport’s Transportation Manager Michael Thompson said two raised crosswalks and two sets of rumble bars are scheduled to be installed along Shady Side Drive during the third week of August. Kingsport held a public hearing this week on whether or not to install five similar devices on Essex Drive/Suffolk Street.
“(The Essex/Suffolk devices) have not been approved yet. We’re fairly early in that process. We’re seeking input and will go from there,” Thompson said.
In an attempt to reduce and slow down traffic in various neighborhoods across the Model City, city staff created a traffic management plan last year that allows for traffic calming devices to be installed.
Under the regulations, a study process is initiated by a petition of at least five residents. Those eventually voting through the mail must approve the installation by a 70 percent margin, with failure to return a ballot counted as a yes vote.
Eighteen streets were originally submitted for consideration, and five met the initial criteria — Watauga Drive and Pendragon Drive have already had traffic calming devices installed, and the fifth street, Bellingham Drive, will likely be evaluated in September, Thompson said.
“We’ve gotten several other requests, and we’re evaluating some of them and waiting on the petition from some of them,” Thompson said.
Requirements for the traffic calming measures include minimum average traffic of 1,000 vehicles per day and at least 15 percent of the drivers going 10 mph over the speed limit. Other factors include the number of crashes along the road and whether the road has sidewalks or school crossings.
Shady Side had been voted down in the past by people living along the street, but after the Board of Mayor and Aldermen became aware that county residents were allowed to vote, the city changed the rule where only city residents could vote on whether or not to install the devices. Shady Side lies partly in the city and the county, and under the new rules enough “yes” votes were tallied to move forward with installing traffic calming measures.
The cost of each traffic calming device is around $2,000. The city spent approximately $8,000 on the Watauga devices and $7,000 on the Pendragon ones.
Mayor Dennis Phillips said earlier this year he fears the city is creating a monster with these devices and that they could turn into an enormous cost to the city.
“It’s not to the point where it’s not manageable,” Thompson said. “I think the criteria was well thought out to limit it to the worst problem areas.”