Study shows drivers speed in residential neighborhoods

Town to take action to calm traffic

Fred McCormick

Two neighborhoods will likely see measures to calm traffic after a January roadway assessment revealed drivers speeding on several streets.

A town-commissioned study in the Fourth Street and Cragmont neighborhoods seems to bolster contentions by several Black Mountain residents with yellow "Slow Down" signs in their yards that cars are speeding through their neighborhoods.

Five miles over the speed limit is "acceptable" when determining if speeding problems exist, according to the study by Waynesville-based J.M. Teague Engineering and Planning that was presented to Black Mountain aldermen March 13.

Teague Engineering's study in the Fourth Street neighborhood recorded speeds just over or under 27 mph on First and Fourth streets. Speeds along the Cragmont neighborhood's 20-mph streets topped 28 mph southbound on Church Street; on North Daugherty Street, where the speed limit is 25 mph, traffic each way was about 28 mph, the study indicated.

A car passes through the intersection of Church Street and Connally Street, both of which are "experiencing a speed problem," according to a recent study of traffic patterns focusing on two Black Mountain neighborhoods.

Aldermen at their March 13 meeting heard from residents of those neighborhoods. Town Manager Matt Settlemyer also explained how the town will address speeding.

The scope of the study in the Fourth Street neighborhood included First, Third and Fourth streets (Second Street, which leads to a dead end on the east side, was excluded). A study in the Cragmont neighborhood focused on Church, Connally and North Dougherty streets, as well as Laurel Circle Drive. The study assessed speed and volume of traffic along those roads.

Traffic volume would likely be higher had the study been done outside of winter, Settlemyer told the board. Nonetheless, "it’s fair to say that speeds on First Street and Fourth Street were considered to be above the range of what would be considered normal for neighborhoods,” he said. “Same goes for Church Street and Connally (Street).”

Weston Hall lives on Portmanvilla Road, which veers off the junction of Third and Fourth streets. He told aldermen that nearby Charlotte Street behind Black Mountain Primary School should have been included in the study. Charlotte Street has a 25 mph speed limit.

“I think that’s a little excessive,” Hall said. “I’ve seen some near misses.”

He argued that speeds along Fourth Street might be higher than the report suggests. The traffic-counting tubes were placed a mere 18 feet from the stop sign, he said, enabling them to tallying speeds that were not the cars' peak speeds.

Rick Harwood, who owns a business along North Dougherty Street, said he drove along the road to get a better understanding of the speed along the mostly residential street. The speed limit is 25 mph.

Drivers along Fourth Street in Black Mountain exceeded the posted speed limit by as much as 7.6 mph, according to a traffic study commissioned by the town in January.

"If someone is out there walking a dog or an elderly person is out there taking a stroll, that’s a pretty good speed,’” Harwood said. He drove through twice more, coming back at 20 mph, five miles slower than the posted speed. Even at that speed, "I don’t think we could save a child if they ran out in front of a car,” he said.

The report will help the town address traffic issues as Black Mountain grows, Settlemyer said. The study doesn't recommend changes to speed limits, but Settlemyer told aldermen he would talk to residents of those neighborhoods and suggest traffic-calming measures at their April 10 meeting.

Public education and an enforcement campaign, coordinated among residents, town officials and local law enforcement, would likely help reduce speeds along First, Fourth, Church and Connally streets, the report states. Rumble strips - temporary features in the road which serve to remind drivers to slow down - are one possibility, Settlemyer said. "There may be a way to tie those in where they’re close to a speed limit sign or a stop sign to help draw (the driver’s) attention.”

Measures that work will help the town address complaints in other parts of town, Settlemyer said.

“We’re already getting some concerns from the Vance Avenue area,” he said. “We’ve had concerns from Rhododendron (Avenue), which is a state road with different limitations.

“This is the beginning of the process and not the end,” he added. “The neighborhoods studied were vocal. But they also had a real issue, and I think that issue could potentially exist in other areas where we’ll have to find ways to address those.”