Brookhaven’s Public Works Director Richard Meehan pulled up a map of the city on his desktop computer and pointed to the hundreds of yellow dots.
“Those are all the speed bumps in the city,” he said.
There are more than 200 speed bumps within the approximate 11 square miles of the city, he said. But residents want more of them—and several other types of traffic calming devices the city is examining amid complaints of cut-through commuter traffic. From “splinter islands” to roundabouts, Meehan’s job is to weigh the possibilities.
“There’s just so much an engineer can do to slow down some idiots,” Meehan said. “We just ask everyone to be patient.”
A quick glance of the map shows that more than half of Brookhaven’s speed bumps are positioned between Peachtree Road and Buford Highway.
Brookhaven Heights, Brookhaven Fields and Ashford Park are some of the major neighborhoods in this area and have many traffic calming measures in place.
A lot of the speed bumps were “inherited” from DeKalb County probably a decade before Brookhaven became a city, Meehan said.
The reason for so many speed bumps is to slow and attempt to deter the hundreds of cut-through commuters trying to avoid the congested Dresden Drive and North Druid Hills Road area that serve as de facto thoroughfares to I-85 and I-285.
“A lot of the issues we have are shortcuts through the neighborhoods. People are going to drive where they are going to drive,” Meehan said.
On Aug. 9, the City Council is set to vote on a controversial traffic calming petition in Brookhaven Heights that calls for more speed bumps in the neighborhood, but also the partial closure of Standard Drive and Thornwell Drive by making them right-in only from North Druid Hills Road, and also partially closing Oglethorpe Avenue by making it right-in, right-out only from North Druid Hills Road.
Many residents opposing the traffic calming petition say if those three roads are partially closed off, the remaining two roads off North Druid Hills – Pine Grove Avenue and Colonial Drive – will be flooded with even more traffic congestion. The council has deferred the vote, and residents along with City Councilmember Bates Mattison, who represents the area, are trying to hammer out a compromise before the vote.
“Traffic calming can be so emotional,” Meehan said. “But it’s not our job to be the referee for a neighborhood. We put the burden on the neighborhood liaison.”
But this is just one of at least 10 traffic calming petitions currently under consideration by the city. Most requests are for more speed bumps and other “passive measures” such as chicanes, which are a series of road-narrowing curves, or striping to make lanes narrower, Meehan said.
“We get one or two calls a week. We’ve gotten a lot more calls since Brookhaven Heights,” Meehan said.
Some living on West Nancy Creek west of Ashford-Dunwoody Road are in the process of gathering the necessary 65 percent of signatures of residents needed to kick-start a city traffic study that begins the traffic calming request process; the Ashford Park
Elementary School neighborhood will likely be seeking City Council approval soon for more speed bumps; Windsor Parkway east of Hermance Drive residents are seeking passive measures; the city is working with a section of Park Crest Drive on the possibility of more speed bumps.
The neighborhood between Duke Road and Bragg Street – in that ground-zero zone between Peachtree Road and Buford Highway – is also in the midst of gathering 65 percent of signatures of residents.
There are several other neighborhoods beginning the process that takes approximately a year to get through, Meehan said. The process begins with a minimum of 20 percent of residents in a neighborhood agreeing they want traffic calming.
When the city receives the 20 percent, it begins city-funded traffic studies to determine if such measures are indeed needed, Meehan said.
Residents must also agree to pay $25 a year to cover maintenance and installation, Meehan said. Last year, for example, the city collected about $65,000 in traffic calming fees.
Traffic studies for neighborhoods can cost more than $1,000. The study for Brookhaven Heights cost about $3,000, Meehan said. Installing a single speed bump costs approximately $3,500.
The city works with neighborhoods to determine what is best, with most residents just wanting more speed bumps, Meehan said.
Other traffic calming measures include “splitter islands” that are supposed to slow motorists as they pass into a narrower strip of road. There are several of these on Caldwell Road where the Post Apartments are located and also on West Nancy Creek Drive.
The Brookhaven Heights traffic calming petition includes a neighborhood roundabout – a circular intersection at Oglethorpe Avenue and Colonial Drive, but that measure was already being considered by the city because of poor visibility, Meehan said.
Roundabouts are also typically traffic control features rather than traffic calming, he said. A roundabout is currently being considered for intersection of Windsor Parkway and Osborne Road.
The four-way stop at this intersection leads to major backup traffic and a roundabout is better, and cheaper, than installing a traffic signal, Meehan said. Another roundabout exists at Town Brookhaven.
Meehan said another traffic calming measure being discussed by city leaders is what’s known as “gateway treatment,” usually a brick monument with the name of a neighborhood on it that could dissuade people from entering.
“It’s supposed to subliminally affect the motorist to slow down because they see they are entering a neighborhood … They’re entering something different,” Meehan said.
Striping to narrow traffic lanes is another passive measure that squeezes motorists into tighter spaces that, hopefully, causes them to slow down. Striping is also low cost at about 50 cents a foot.