When it comes to traffic calming, Raleigh city officials want to be proactive, but find it a tough without a crystal ball.
Each year the city allocates money toward major and minor traffic calming projects. Since 2010, the city has allocated about $750,000 for those projects. This year, the city has $1.7 million available due to a previous bond.
Traffic calming projects are implemented through citizen petition. Residents who think there is a speeding problem in their area apply to be put on the project list. The street is then studied and prioritized by transportation staff.
During Tuesday’s City Council Budget and Economic Development Committee meeting, Councilor Thomas Crowder said that as the city grows and new developments crop up, inevitably that growth will start to have an impact on the surrounding neighborhoods.
Yet, while the city can request or encourage traffic calming projects in new development projects, the city has no way of being proactive in existing developments.
Senior Transportation Engineer Jed Niffenegger explained that the city barely has enough money to continue going forward with the current list of projects.
The city attempts to fund between nine and 12 projects each year.
“Growth should be able to participate in these costs,” Crowder said.
City transportation staff researched the pros and cons of requiring developers to construct traffic calming in surrounding neighborhoods.
The difficulty, staff found, is proving that a particular development is going to cause increased speeding as well as increased density.
In these developments, Niffenegger said, it could be, “five to 10 years before the true impact of that development is felt.”
Because of that uncertainty, city officials wouldn’t be able to defend additional impact fees.
Transportation Planning Manager Eric Lamb explained that there needs to be a demonstrated reason why the city is charging a particular fee. Transportation planning staff can’t adequately predict that a development will lead to drivers speeding through neighborhoods.
Crowder also suggested raising car registration fees since the impact is coming directly from drivers.
Committee members asked transportation staff to come back with a full report in the spring that includes how much funding would be needed to complete certain project benchmarks.