West Keizerites ask city for help calming traffic

(Charles Glenn/Keizertimes)

West Keizer residents want some help with slowing down traffic on Cummings Lane, particularly near where it intersects with Shoreline Dr. N. According to West Keizer Neighborhood Association president Rhonda Rich and Parks Board member Mike DeBlasi, it’s a public safety issue.

“The safety of the children at Cummings Elementary has been a high priority for West Keizer residents for many decades,” Rich told the council during their Sept. 6 meeting. She said the city had been helpful in the past when they needed to provide a safe walking area for Cummings students walking from Delight St., and was hoping for more help.

“We have always known Cummings Lane was a unsafe route for kids going to and from school,” she said. “It’s narrow, with no designated sidewalks. The city has said that right-of-way would have to be purchased to widen the street for sidewalks and that it would be very expensive, thus nothing has been done about this.”

Rich said that as an alternative, WEKNA has asked for the city to look into a “speed table” which could slow down traffic on Cummings Lane.

In response to this request, the city recently hired traffic management consultant firm DKS to conduct a speed survey of the area, and they did not recommend installing traffic calming devices such as speed tables or speed bumps on Cummings at the time. The study cited the primary reason for this was that installing speed calming devices on Cummings Lane could slow down or re-route emergency vehicles trying to access the surrounding community.

Rich said the survey neglected to account for the needs of the community, particularly the Cummings students.

“I understand that there is some value in a speed study,” she said. “But it doesn’t take into account that we’re talking about the safety of elementary school children, and the survey makes no mention of an elementary school fronting Cummings Lane. I think that the people in Keizer know best what can make our streets safer.”

DeBlasi echoed those sentiments. He told the council he felt the DKS study was wrong, and that the problem was the city’s design. He said the speed limit set for Cummings Lane was 25 mph, but the truth is that most people feel safe driving about five miles over the speed limit. As a result, when compared to the other routes in and through the city, Cummings Lane becomes one of the faster routes for people to take, making it unsafe for pedestrians without a designated sidewalk.

“We should be designing our streets so that 85-90 percent of our drivers are going the speed limit,” he said, implying that lowering the limit on Cummings Lane would reduce the average speed for the connecting streets, as well.

DeBlasi said the study didn’t acknowledge that many speed calming devices are designed to accommodate large vehicles like ladder-trucks and ambulances. These devices, called speed cushions, are made with gaps so that large vehicles can pass without slowing down.

“Tests done in the UK indicate that emergency vehicles can pass over speed cushions 10-20 miles faster than they could over speed bumps,” he said. He also cited similar examples from Austin, TX.

“If I paid for this report, I would ask for my money back,” he said. “The report is long on data and charts, but is short on solutions and sheds no light on what the neighbors live with.”

Rich said WEKNA has held more than three meetings on this issue since January, and Keizer Police Chief John Teague attended the most recent one, where he suggested WEKNA ask for a stop-sign at Shoreline Dr. N and Dearborn Rd., and a speed table installed in front of the school.