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Elm Grove committee studies how to calm traffic on Watertown Plank Road

Aug. 20, 2014

Signage and other devices calling on motorists to observe posted speed limits could be installed along portions of Watertown Plank Road, following a recent review by an Elm Grove panel.

Members of the village's Public Safety Committee on Aug. 14 recommended placing a radar enhanced speed sign near Blue Ridge Boulevard and Watertown Plank Road.

As with most initiatives, however, cost remains a sticking point. Village Manager Dave DeAngelis said he does not have any funds allocated in this year's budget to cover the expense of installing signage along one of the village's most heavily traveled roadways.

Speed concerns along portions of Watertown Plank Road were first discussed a month ago. At the time, several residents gave anecdotal information and asserted speeding has, at times, been 20 to 30 miles over the limit in areas of the corridor.

Watertown Plank Road, which has a mixture of residential and commercial developments, has posted speed limits of 25 miles per hour.

At last month's Public Safety Committee meeting, members directed Police Chief Jim Gage to study traffic patterns throughout Watertown Plank Road. The study is a prelude to a so-called traffic calming policy that could eventually be instituted to mitigate speeding.

In the past month, Gage said he and other department officials used speed enforcement evaluator equipment to study traffic patterns at assorted areas along Watertown Plank Road. Ultimately, the Blue Ridge Boulevard area was found to have the highest rate of speeding.

"Eighty-five percent of the vehicles are traveling at speeds equal to or less than 34 miles per hour, in both directions," Gage said of the Watertown Plank Road and Blue Ridge Boulevard area. In effect, this means that 15 percent of drivers are going at least 10 miles per hour over the speed limit.

Gage added, "This area may benefit from the placement of a radar integrated speed sign or some other appropriate traffic calming measure."

According to data gleaned by Gage, the area identified as having the second highest rate of speeding along Watertown Plank Road was near Kurtis Drive. Gage said 85 percent of the vehicles studied were traveling at rates of speed at 32 miles per hour or less.

At this time, the Public Safety Committee is not recommending any traffic calming measures near Watertown Plank Road and Kurtis Drive.

Gage said six separate studies were conducted near the Kurtis Drive and Blue Ridge Boulevard cross streets. Traffic patterns were tallied from July 11-15 and again from July 21-Aug. 2.

Plans call for the Public Safety Committee to further discuss the traffic calming measures as funding enters the equation.

Local philanthropic organizations, such as the Elm Grove Community Foundation, could be asked to assist with some or all of the funding so the projects do not wind up being fully tax- funded.

The radar enhanced speed signs are one of several possible methods village officials have been eyeing.

Other possibilities have included installing "Do Not Enter" or one-way signs in areas of concern, installing pavement markers, ramping up police enforcement and making greater use of speed trailers. On a grander scale, redesigning several roadways has been discussed.

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