Speed cushions to slow traffic

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County Commissioners Thursday agreed to use a combination of speed cushions and speed message signs that also collect speed data to address the problem of speeders in residential areas.

John Howle, county engineer, spoke at the commission’s March 8 meeting, providing the options to address the danger posed by speeding vehicles. He reviewed some of the traffic-calming options:

• 4-Way stops are only allowed when traffic data meets certain requirements.

• Speed bumps are used in parking lots but are not allowed on public roads.

• Speed messaging signs alert traffic to their actual speed and collect data of actual traffic speeds.

• Speed humps can be used on public roads. Both regular traffic and emergency vehicles must stop for speed humps which cover both lanes of traffic.

• Speed cushions are placed on the road in segments. Cars and trucks must slow for speed cushions as one or both front wheels will go over the cushion. Emergency vehicles have a wider wheel base and can straddle the speed cushion without slowing.

All of the options under consideration can be moved from one location to another.

Commissioner Kelly Owens said she understood the initial cost includes installation, but questioned the cost of moving a speed cushion or speed table to another location. Mr. Howle said the road department personnel can move the devices.

Commissioner Bryant Culpepper said he liked the speed cushion option, but questioned if big trucks could also straddle the devices.

This is an example of a speed cushion installed on a street.

He said he has concerns the speed messaging signs will be vandalized.

“I think especially at night time, when there is no one to watch them, they will become targets,” he said.

“On Southwest Ninth Street (off 67th Drive), I believe the majority would like to have some kind of device to slow them down between the stop signs,” said Commissioner Culpepper.

“I think besides running the stop signs, one of the other issues was just speed when there are kids playing along the road and things like that,” said Commissioner Bradley Goodbread.

He said the speed cushions appear to be the most cost-effective option. He added that in order to change the wheel base of a truck, it would need different axles. Just putting big tires on it would actually narrow the wheel base, he added.

Commissioner David Hazellief said liked the idea of the mobile radar device that can be moved from neighborhood to neighborhood.

“Is it possible to take a picture and send a ticket in the mail to the speeder?” asked Commissioner Hazellief. “They do it with red light cameras and they do it at the toll plaza.”

“I have seen signs that state: speed limit, photo enforced,” said Commissioner Goodbread.

Sheriff Noel Stephen said he supports use of a hybrid approach, with speed cushions in some areas, and two mobile speed sign trailers that also collect speed data.

“If I’ve got a complaint in every community in this county, it is related to speed,” he said.

“When I get a complaint and put an officer there, usually the first one caught for speeding is someone in the complainant’s family,” he added.

He said it’s a continuous battle to keep people alert and cautious of their speeding.

He said he supports use of speed measuring devices that flash the driver’s speed and also collect data.

The sheriff said he unsuccessfully sought grant funding for two such trailers this year.

He said he prefers a device that is on a trailer which will cost a little more than the device initially considered by the county engineer. The sheriff explained that the lighted speed sign they had is worn out.

“Our traffic issue concern in this county is growing. It’s all about staffing,” said the sheriff.

He said motorcycle officers are more efficient and can move more easily on the county roads which often have narrow shoulders.

He said his motorcycle officer has about 100 contacts a day, and only writes tickets to about 20 percent of those he stops.

“We’re just trying to increase awareness,” he said.

He said he thinks the flashing signs do help slow traffic.

“When we all look at the sign, we look at our speedometer immediately,” he said. The sheriff said his department should be the one to collect the traffic data.

“These devices as far as I am concerned, they collect data, but your officer is going to have to figure it out,” said Commission Chair Terry Burroughs. “Right now we have people who won’t pay attention and may not pay attention to these devices.”

“I don’t think there is going to be any one cure,” said the sheriff. “It’s definitely something that can be part of a hybrid of solutions.

“I think it is going to take all of us working together along with the public in order to tackle this monster.”

Chairman Burroughs said he thinks the speed cushions will probably be the best way of managing some of those thoroughfares where people are speeding.

“I would be in huge support of the electronic device if it gives you data,” said Commissioner Culpepper. “It tells you where to marshal your people.”

“I think the speed cushions are immediate assistance,” said Commissioner Owens.

“I would like to try a couple roads and see what the results are, and then we can start adding additional places,” agreed Commissioner Culpepper.

The sheriff said the trailers he has in mind cost about $10,000 each and can be moved with a patrol car.

He agreed to work with the county administrator to try to find money in the current fiscal year’s budget for the devices.

Chairman Burroughs suggesting putting speed cushions in areas like Northwest 36th Street and Southwest Ninth Street (off 67th Drive).

Commissioner Hazellief suggested gathering data before making a decision about adding speed cushions.

Chairman Burroughs said he did not want to wait for a study.

“I have people complaining about drivers going down Southwest Ninth Street (off 67th Drive) very fast and there are children in danger,” he said.

The sheriff said he will ask his staff for recommendations for critical areas for speed cushions. He said he can think of about half a dozen streets where they could be used.

Commissioner Owens noted speed cushions are not an option for Berman Road; not an option because of the speed limit on that road.

“Speed cushions can be used in residential area where the speed limit is lower,” agreed the sheriff. “This will allow me to put my officers in areas the speed cushions cannot be used.”

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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