The concept of "traffic calming" might sound like it involves lighting candles and meditating - not a bad idea for anyone who has been stuck in the snarled traffic at rush hour on any number of commuter routes in Columbia County.
But when Traffic Engineer Glen Bollinger talks about "traffic calming," he isn't talking about relieving congestion. He's referring to slowing traffic through neighborhoods.
That's been a pretty touchy issue the past few years. County officials have gone from one extreme to another, all involving physical barriers to speeders.
First they took an arm's-length attitude, putting the bulk of the work and expense of speed humps on neighborhood residents. After one problematic effort on one street in one neighborhood, however, chastised county officials took over the entire process.
Now, with a single phone call, one resident of a neighborhood can start the process to get speed humps installed - at the expense of all taxpayers - on a street regardless of whether any other residents want them.
Bollinger and others are looking for a happy medium. "Traffic calming" - which isn't a new concept, by the way - simply means making it difficult for vehicles to move fast through neighborhoods: building streets narrow, or with lots of curves, or installing "roundabouts."
Unfortunately, "calming" works almost exclusively on streets that don't yet exist. Once a neighborhood is built, it's a little late to put curves into the road.
Perhaps the best route is to start making these "calmer" designs part of new subdivision requirements. That won't end the demand for speed humps for existing neighborhoods, but perhaps it will calm some of the enthusiasm for them.
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