2016-12-23 / Front Page

New traffic calming policy to be crafted

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

Although the current traffic calming policy in Kennebunk was only created in 2012, with amendments adopted in 2013, town staffers have suggested it is due for an overhaul.

A new draft policy on how, when, and where to install speed bumps and other ways of gaining compliance with posted speed limits was submitted to selectmen at their Dec. 13 meeting by the town’s public safety committee. That group is comprised of Fire Chief Jeffrey Rowe, Police Chief Robert MacKenzie, Public Services Director Eric Labelle, and Community Development Director Chris Osterrieder.

“Part of the reason for modifying the policy is that, as structured now, it relies upon a citizen to put forth a petition saying, ‘I want traffic calming devices,’” Osterrieder told selectmen. “But we want to make this more than a yes-or-no policy. Right now, all problems are equal, but we really can’t be in the position to keep buying speed bumps. We’ll have every street in town with one.”

Currently, the town has temporary speed bumps installed on Chase Hill, Pleasant Street and Woodside Drive.

“To be honest, those speed bumps we use are not the best device,” Osterrieder said.

As currently drafted, the new policy would compel the police department to undertake a Field Study of Traffic Conditions” and make a recommendation to the public safety committee. Some form of traffic calming may be recommended if:

 85 percent of vehicles are found to be exceeding the posted speed limit by 10 mph or more,

 cut-through traffic — cars deemed to be using a side street to avoid a stop light, or other traffic condition — exceeds normal traffic volume by more than 25 percent, and,

 the area in question has seen three or more traffic accidents during the 18 months prior to the field study.

“Everything costs money. So, we cant say yes to every single thing, but we also want to make sure anything we do is an appropriate solution,” Osterrieder said.

Osterrieder said another goal of the change is to install speed bumps only where they can be made “appropriate and permanent.”

“As a tourist community, some of our traffic patters come and go,” he said. “If we put something in, I don’t want to have to go in three years later and take it out. How to unspend money is not something I’ve figured out how to do.”

Under the new policy, devices such as roadside signs — whether on trailers, connected to message boards, or installed as part of a flashing “dynamic” sign — could be used on any street. However, speed bumps, longer speed tables, roundabouts, and chicanes would only be considered on town roads where the posted speed limit is 25 mph, or less.

Although the policy was presented to selectmen on their agenda as a “first reading,” Osterrieder and Town Manager Michael Pardue both said the document needs more work, particularly to the setting of timelines for implementation, or not, of resident requests for traffic calming, and completion of a field study.

“We need to make a commitment when these come forward that we are responsive to the public. And, when someone comes forward, we want community involvement,” Pardue said.

Pardue said the public safety committee would continue to tweak the new policy proposal and bring back an updated version to selectmen as a new first reading “in February.”

In the meantime, Osterrieder said, public “feedback is very welcome.”

Selectman Ed Karytko suggested adding one or two representatives from the public to the public safety committee, “so there would be some public feedback almost immediately.”

However, Pardue answered that while committee meetings are public, with times and places posted to the town website, and that the committee would be “inviting and welcoming to feedback” at those session, it might actually bog things down to include residents as actual voting members of the group.

“Being nimble, to move quickly and efficiently, sometimes that doesn’t always work if we involve the public to a great degree as a committee member,” he said.

The full draft policy is available on the town website, kennebunkmaine.us, under the agendas and minutes section, as part of the meeting packet for the Dec. 13 selectmen’s meeting.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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