Speed cushion installation in one Northwest Austin neighborhood raises questions about city process

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Jester speed cushions

A petition to remove speed cushions on Jester Boulevard has garnered 443 signatures as of Wednesday, resident Carol Philipson said. (via Amy Denney/Community Impact Newspaper)

Updated 2:08 p.m. July 13

Just two weeks ago after the city of Austin installed two sets of speed cushions in one Northwest Austin neighborhood, a petition began circulating for their removal.

In late June, the city added the speed cushions on Jester Boulevard between two of the three points where Anaqua Drive meets the roadway. The winding, hilly roadway in the Jester neighborhood spans about 2 miles north of RM 2222 and includes bike lanes.

The petition to add speed mitigation in Jester was submitted in 2015. Carol Philipson, who has lived in Jester for 26 years, said neither of the two residents who started a petition still live in the neighborhood, which has about 960 households, she said.

“They had 29 signatures to get the petition to have them put in, and it was signed off by the city,” Philipson said. “I’ve got 443 signatures of people who say they don’t want them.”

In talking to residents who initially signed the petition for the speed hump installation, Philipson said some people thought they were signing up to vote on the type of speed mitigation.

Speeding is an issue along Jester, Philipson said, but residents wanted to provide input on the type of speed mitigation devices that should be installed. She said the city also did not contact the homeowners association about installing the speed humps.

“We should have had the choice in determining what we want to slow people down,” she said.

Speed mitigation efforts

Austin Transportation Department’s Local Area Traffic Management Program is in charge of speed mitigation efforts to calm traffic, such as speed cushions, which have a break in the middle to allow emergency vehicles to straddle the cushions. The program began in the mid-1980s in response to residential concerns about high traffic speeds, increasing traffic volumes and pedestrian safety.

Residents must submit a request for speed mitigation in their neighborhood. The city then conducts a traffic speed and volume study and will determine if the 85th percentile speed exceeds the posted speed limit by 3 mph or more, according to the city’s website.

If the city’s traffic engineer determines the street is eligible for traffic-calming, the petitioner must obtain the signature from a representative of each property in the petition area, according to the city’s website.

“We should have had the choice in determining what we want to slow people down.”
— Resident Carol Philipson

Marissa Monroy, a spokesperson for Austin Transportation Department, said the city has never received a request to remove any speed mitigation. If residents do want speed mitigation efforts removed, they must submit a formal request with signatures from 60 percent of residents who live on the street in the project limits.

The city is also looking to improve the existing speed mitigation process, which involves the city determining the best speed mitigation device.

“We’re re-evaluating our outreach policy and our eligibility criteria,” Monroy said.

District 10 Council Member Alison Alter addressed the subject of speed mitigation in a post to residents through Nextdoor, an online social network. In the post, she said she has asked the transportation department to temporarily pause installation of any new speed cushion projects in District 10. Speed cushions have also recently been installed on Far West Boulevard and Mesa Drive.

“During this pause, my staff and I will work with ATD to re-evaluate its traffic calming program,” she stated in the post. “Specifically we need to reassess whether the program is meeting its intended goals and how we can make sure all affected citizens have an opportunity to be heard. For those projects recently installed, we will work with ATD to create an open process to review the appropriateness of those traffic calming installations.”

In May, the department updated and ranked its list of 570 speed mitigation requests. One request for speed humps on Beauford Drive, which connects Jester to the adjacent Lakewood neighborhood, has been funded through the city’s Quarter Cent Fund—created from the 2000 light rail proposal defeated by voters.

Projects that are approved for construction can be funded through the department’s budget or the Quarter Cent Fund.

Residents can submit projects twice a year by April 1 or Oct. 1. Any eligible projects that don’t receive funding in one cycle are automatically reconsidered in subsequent funding cycles for up to two years, after which requests must be resubmitted.

Additional reporting by Marie Albiges.

Editor’s note: This post was updated to including information from District 10 Council Member Alison Alter’s office.

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COMMENT
  1. So, let’s see if we all get this insanity. The city installed with 29 signatures out of 960 households in the area, but requires 60% of the people living in close proximity of the bumps before they might consider removing them. And there was no discussion with the duly elected HOA of the area before installation. The “we know better than you” nannystate is alive and well in Austin.

Amy Denney
Amy has been reporting in community journalism since 2007. She worked in the Chicago suburbs for three years before migrating south and joined Community Impact Newspaper in September 2010. Amy has been editor of the Northwest Austin publication since August 2012 and she is also the transportation beat reporter for the Austin area.
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