Some Facts and Perspective on the Circle at 31st and West

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 22, 2007

Dear Editor,
    Re: “Who Squared the Circle at 31st and West?,” Jan. 19 [News]: In her article, Katherine Gregor presented a unique hypothesis regarding the Heritage Neighborhood’s request for a traffic circle at 31st and West. I’d like to provide some facts and perspective.
    A recent engineering traffic study revealed these streets have low volumes and low incidents of speeding. In addition, only two accidents were reported on this street over a five-year period. As a result, my recommendation to the city manager was to not support a traffic circle at 31st and West.
    Missing from the Chronicle’s article are the numerous road-marking improvements that have been made after we conducted this traffic study:
    – Painting “stop lines” on 31st Street for eastbound and westbound traffic;
    – Painting “Stop” on 31st Street for eastbound and westbound traffic;
    – Installation of “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” signs under the existing “Stop” signs;
    – Installation of a “Stop Ahead” sign on 31st Street for eastbound traffic;
    – Recommended (and approved by City Council) reducing the street speed limit to 25 mph.
    City staff has worked with Ms. Kiolbassa and other neighborhood representatives over the last couple of years to address their concerns, including children walking in the streets. The city has offered to install sidewalks at the neighborhood’s highest priority areas and match the funds they received from the developer. That offer was rejected.
    I find it troubling that while Ms. Gregor chose to theorize on the “political” aspects of providing traffic devices to specific neighborhoods, she chose not to interview specific staff deeply involved in this process. City staff knowledgeable on the Heritage Neighborhood request would have been happy to discuss the established criteria and the benefits of making such decisions based on facts and engineering expertise.
    In summary, the city manager continues to evaluate this issue. If it is decided to recommend some form of traffic calming, the entire neighborhood will be asked to vote first – as required by our policy on traffic calming.
    The question for those who do not live on West Avenue or on 31st Street (where the traffic calming is proposed) will be: “Are you willing to risk having more traffic shift over to your street and have response time impacted?”
Sondra Creighton, P.E.
Director, Public Works Department
City of Austin
   [Katherine Gregor responds: The Chronicle appreciates the director of Public Works' sharing her perspective and background information on the city's engineering study and road-marking improvements. See "Naked City" bullet (Jan. 26) on new COA solution suggested: speed cushions.]
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