CARBONDALE — Voices were heard and a plan was announced Tuesday to help decrease traffic speeds along North Wall Street — all this in response to a 5-year-old’s death last August after he was struck by a car.
City Manager Gary Williams introduced the city’s plan to cut driver speeds along the road and brought Sean Henry, Carbondale's public works director, to explain the city’s speed study and proposed solution.
Over about a two-week period in September, the city recorded speeds of 35,088 drivers along North Wall Street, according to Henry’s report. He said that about 85 percent of drivers were traveling below 38 mph — the posted speed is 30 mph. There was a high recorded speed of about 60 mph.
CARBONDALE — It’s been seven months since Lee Hughes said this: “I think they heard us tonight.”
Residents of Carbondale’s northeast side in August brought to the city a petition with about 200 signatures asking for speed bumps along North Wall Street where the child was hit and killed last summer. While this was considered, Henry said research indicated that other measures may be more effective to reducing speeds.
The proposed plan is to reduce lanes to 10.5 feet and add 4.5-foot bike lanes on either side. With this would be enhanced crosswalks with illuminated signs. Henry explained that constricting the lanes forces drivers to slow down.
During City Council comments on the proposal, Councilman Adam Loos asked Henry about community involvement and input on the plan.
“Has this been floated to them or are they seeing this for the first time tonight,” he asked, with Henry saying they had not.
Residents of the neighborhood criticized the city’s radio silence on the matter recently. Williams told The Southern at the time that the city did not want to release incomplete information.
Loos, as well as Councilman Jeff Doherty, asked about reducing the posted speed limit in conjunction with these proposed measures. Henry initially said the posted speed is currently the lowest allowed by law, but after further review of state statute, it was discovered that the city could drop the speed below 30 mph.
Doherty circled back to Loos’ question about community engagement. He said the residents should be part of the discussion “before we actually act on something.”
Community comments on the proposal were mixed.
“You’re not there,” was the big sentiment Valerie Muhammad expressed to the council. She was critical of the plan, but it was not clear what else she wanted the city to do about the problem.
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“They go through the stop signs like they were invisible,” she said, adding that she felt signs and flashing indicators would be ignored.
The principle organizer of last year’s petition was Lee Hughes, co-owner of longtime Carbondale business Arnete’s Barbershop. He was appreciative of the city’s work.
“First of all I want to thank you for your work in putting (this) together,” he said before adding a suggestion.
“I’m suggesting maybe a post test after if it’s voted on and actually put in place just to see if the calming measure are working,” Hughes said. Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry and others nodded in agreement.
Some in the audience were dubious of the sample speeds, thinking there should have been more recorded around 55 mph.
Mayor Henry said while the numbers are the numbers, they still were not at safe levels.
“We know what the speeds are. They have to come down,” he said.
Acknowledging the nearby Thomas Elementary School and Attucks Park, Henry set out a swift timeline for the project.
“We are going to get the project done before school starts,” he said.
Williams said at the top of the discussion that the project has had funding earmarked in this year’s budget.
Before moving on, Loos broadened the scope of the discussion rolling through a handful of other pedestrian deaths throughout the city and ended with a rhetorical question.
“Why do we have to wait," he asked. “We know this is harmful.” He suggested the city should be proactive instead of reactive when dealing with problematic intersections and roads.