Westlake area may be trading in speed humps for added flashing radar signs


Robert Wood, West Lake Hills city administrator, said the Yaupon Valley Road area is “almost definitely” going to see speed-measuring flashing radar signs in the near future.

During a Feb. 27 City Council meeting, officials called for research over flashing radar signs after discussing speed and safety-control measures in the area. Council voted to remove two existing speed humps on Yaupon Valley after noise complaints and questions over their effectiveness.

Wood said Yaupon Valley neighbors then suggested installing radar signs instead. Wood said there are currently five flashing speed radar signs in the West Lake Hills area: two on Reveille Road, two on Westlake Drive and one on Forest View Drive.

The addition of radar signs on Yaupon Valley could arrive four to six weeks after the city gets a contractor.

A few miles southwest, the Lost Creek Limited District implemented radar signs Jan. 8 to address its own speeding issues in residential areas. However, the chairman of Lost Creek’s speed-mitigation working group, Barbara Szalay, said it was no easy problem to fix.

“We had needs for speed mitigation, but we had a lot of controversy in the neighborhood,” Szalay said.

Whether it was speed humps, medians or narrowing the street, Szalay said public outcry brought many traffic-calming ideas to a halt. She started Lost Creek’s speed-mitigation working group about a year ago to address speeding concerns in the area. Since its start, Szalay and the group worked with the city to get six radar signs put in Lost Creek residential streets.

“We think they help bring speeds down,” Szalay said. “They help with distracted drivers who are otherwise well-meaning; they’re just daydreaming.”

After 27 1/2 years in the Travis County Sheriff’s Office traffic unit, West Lake Hills Police Lt. Robert Mills said flashing radar signs may only address compliant drivers.

“The speed signs and speed humps do slow traffic, but you’re always going to have those that will ignore whatever types of devices are out there,” Mills said.

Wood said the intention behind radar signs is not to solve speeding entirely.

“At some point, there’s going to be people that are just going to speed,” Wood said. “But the idea is to get that [speed]number down as low as possible.”

The radar sign will not activate if a driver goes under the speed limit. If the driver goes a mile or two over, the sign will display a “Slow down” message. The radar sign’s flasher will activate once the driver exceeds 5 miles over the speed limit.

From reports and studies over traffic control, Wood said the flash of the radar sign sends a mental signal to distracted drivers.

“It seems there is some sort of psychological impact that when people see their speed flashing on the sign, then it makes them tend to pay attention,” Wood said.

Mills said the flashing radar signs are run by solar power, and the abundant tree cover in the area may present issues as it has for Lost Creek’s signs.

“Even though you might find the right location, it may not be the best location,” Mills said.

In Lost Creek, Szalay said implementing a speed-mitigation working group has been beneficial for her city.

“I think it’s been very productive. It has produced a lot of ideas for going forward,” Szalay said. “I think Westlake could consider that as well.”

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