Following years of complaints from neighbors, city leaders have unveiled another possible solution to the speeding and crashes that plague the Lead/Coal corridor: dozens of new signs.
The city has installed 17 signs alerting drivers that the traffic lights from Washington to University are “set for 30 mph,” meaning drivers should consistently hit green lights if they proceed at the posted speed limit.
And crews have more than doubled the number of speed limit signs along the stretch – adding 30 to the 20 already in place.
Many drivers do not realize the lights along the streets are timed, according to Mayor Tim Keller. Once they recognize that, he said more should drive within the speed limit, saying it is “just psychological” to prefer a slower pace with no red lights than moving faster but stopping frequently.
However, he acknowledged that data on such signs’ effectiveness elsewhere is mixed.
“Sometimes it works great, and sometimes it doesn’t, which is why we need to test it,” Keller said Tuesday at a news conference promoting the signage. “We’ll decide if it works for our town.”
City Councilor Pat Davis, who represents the area, said he is hopeful because the corridor had similar signs many years ago and there was less speeding and crash rates comparable to comparable roads.
But crash rates now on Lead and Coal are higher than similar streets analyzed this year as part of the city’s Lead/Coal Task Force.
“Let’s get back to what we thought was working well,” Davis said.
The city has already made other recent changes in the corridor. Earlier this year, it shortened the green lights. Plans for the next six months also include radar “feedback” signs that show drivers their speed.
As part of a larger Lead/Coal strategy, the city had in October asked the U.S. Federal Highway Administration to conduct a road safety audit of the corridor – something area residents requested.
But a spokesman for the city’s Department of Municipal Development said it is no longer pursuing the federal analysis of the area. The audit would obligate the city to pay for recommended changes, and funding is a factor, according to DMD spokesman Johnny Chandler. Since the city is already actively working on changes to Lead and Coal, he said it would instead seek a federal analysis of another, undetermined roadway where the recommendations might be more useful.
Joseph Aguirre, vice president for the University Heights Association, has for decades advocated for safety improvements along the corridor and participated in the Lead/Coal Task Force. He said it is “concerning” not to have the federal audit but said he was pleased to see leaders working toward solutions.
“To me the important piece is the joint commitment by the mayor and our councilor (Davis) to give this significant priority,” he said.