Brookhaven, GA, August 9, 2016 – by Trey Benton – The City of Brookhaven approved a contentious traffic calming plan for the Brookhaven Heights community Tuesday, that aims to reduce speeds and cut down on through traffic. While Councilmembers agree the plan they unanimously approved is not perfect, it is in general terms an acceptable “first step” product of meetings between Brookhaven Heights and other nearby communities this plan affects.
“We’ve worked real hard to address the concerns with a reasonable solution,” said District 3 Councilman Bates Mattison. “I think this is a good first step compromise. While we were not able to get a point where we had unanimous consensus on the plan, I think we have a plan that is acceptable to all parties.”
Mattison explained that as a first step, before going as far as partially closing all of the roads initially proposed, the City will install signs restricting turns during AM and PM times and will monitor their success. He said the only partial street closure will be at Oglethorpe Ave. at North Druid Hills Rd., as a right-in/right-out only.
In the morning, signs will restrict motorists traveling toward Peachtree Rd. on North Druid Hills Rd. from turning left in to the Brookhaven Heights neighborhood trying to cut through. In the afternoon, no right turns will be allowed out of Brookhaven Heights in an attempt to stop cut through from Peachtree Rd, down Colonial Dr., through Brookhaven Heights, and on to North Druid Hills Rd. via Standard Dr. and Thornwell Dr.
Also included in the approved plan:
- 12 new speed humps
- 19 new bump-outs
- Painted lane narrowing on Colonial Dr. bridge
- Three new four-way stop signs along Matthews Dr. to replace the two-way stop signs
- No through traffic signs at the neighborhood entry points
- Discretion is given to City Staff to adjust the number of speed humps and bump-outs according to the preferences of the neighborhood and Public Works’ professional advise
Brookhaven Heights resident Connie Todd said the Councilmembers should consider what is in the City’s best interest and that the City should consider a real solution to these issues.
“Regardless of what side you sit on, whether you are pro the initial suggested reroute or not…What’s right for our community?,” Todd questioned the Council. “For our Children, for our home value, what’s right for policing our community? I don’t believe that it’s enough to say we’ll put a band-aid fix on it.”
She told Councilmembers to bring a plan that will actually work without worrying about the politics of making all sides happy. “There is a better solution and what we have right here, is not it,” Todd added.
Mattison said that a baseline traffic study will be performed before and after these traffic calming measures are installed to measure their effectiveness. He said that study will also include the entry points to the Brookhaven Fields community to see what effects the traffic calming measures in Brookhaven Heights has on that community.
“If we find that these solutions that we are proposing tonight are not effective in solving the problem, then we are going to take another look and take it to the next level, or if they have done their job, great. Our problem is solved,” Mattison added.
Councilman Joe Gebbia asked Mattison at the end of 6 months and the City is to come back and study the effects of the traffic calming, what the process would be for review and further discussion.
Mattison said, “I will hear it from the neighborhood loud and clear if this thing works or not. They are not going to let me get away with the fact that if we implement a plan and it doesn’t work, I’m gonna hear about it. A lot.” He said at the end of six months, the City’s Public Works Department is going to look at the data “and they are going to tell me.”
Gebbia also questioned how the City is planning to enforce these new calming measures when the Police Department is already basically “tapped-out.”
City Manager Christian Sigman said the Public Works Department, the Police Department and any other department involved with this project will receive an implementation plan that will include targeted enforcement. “We will be monitoring this closely, because there’s a lot of changes, and we want to be sure it’s safe for everybody,” he said.
Sigman also made those in attendance aware that there are aesthetic issues that come along with bump outs chicanes, etc. that people should be aware of. “You saw pictures of fully developed ones. If we are putting in temporary solutions, reevaluating them and possibly taking them out in six months, we’re not going to be putting in permanent ones,” noted Sigman. “So, folks need to get prepared for that.”
Sigma also added that the policy for how traffic calming measures are determined needs to be reviewed so the City can look at the greater impacts prior to getting so far down a particular path and expectations being set.
Around 18 months ago, and at the direction of the City as to process, the Brookhaven Heights Civic Association (BHCA) requested a traffic study be initiated by the city to evaluate the issue of cut-through traffic in their neighborhood. Before the incorporation of Brookhaven as a city, speed tables were installed by DeKalb County which provided relief for a time, but with the current volume of traffic, those measures are no longer adequate.
A traffic study was performed which shows the volume of cut-through traffic, particularly along Colonial Drive, Standard Drive and Thornwell Drive, is an issue. To address the issue, City Officials say BHCA representatives discussed possible solutions with their neighborhood, a plan was prepared, and a petition was circulated to the 415 affected residents. 66.5% of respondents said they approved of the traffic calming measure – only 65% is required by the city.
Another contributor to the cut-through traffic may be amplified due to smartphone applications such as the Waze Traffic App, which allows users to use alternate routes, such as neighborhood streets, to get around bottlenecks.
According to Waze, their app is the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app. They say, “other drivers in your area who share real-time traffic and road info, save everyone time and gas money on their daily commute.” But one unfortunate byproduct may be the volume in which neighborhoods experience cut-through commuters.
Several other communities in Brookhaven are seeking to follow much of the same process Brookhaven Heights followed to provide traffic relief in their neighborhoods.