A new state law makes it easier for local communities to get approval to install traffic calming devices, such as “speed humps,” on neighborhood streets.
A 2009 law first established a process for neighborhoods to obtain permission from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) to have speed humps (technically called “speed tables”) installed on state-maintained roadways. Among other things, it required that 70 percent of the residents of the neighborhood sign a petition requesting traffic calming devices to apply for the permit.
House Bill 581 amends the 2009 law by lowering the required percentage of property owners from 70 percent to 60 percent. The bill faced no opposition in the House or Senate and was signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory in August 2015.
We’ve all seen speed tables in quiet residential neighborhoods: they are longer and lower than the old-fashioned speed bumps, which offered less response time for the driver and can cause damage to a vehicle. Because the raised area of the newer speed tables is more gradual, they are not only less jarring, but are also more accommodating to emergency vehicles. They still give drivers just enough incentive to slow down, however, in situations where a speeding car could prove dangerous to pedestrians.
Besides speed tables, the range of calming devices includes raised islands, traffic circles, choke points, and raised crosswalks:
Raised Island. A median or raised island is an elevated area in the middle of a street that narrows opposing travel lanes in order to slow traffic. These types of devices are very useful in narrowing wide streets with pavement widths of 30 feet or greater. Lane widths are narrowed to a minimum of 10 feet for traffic calming purposes.
Traffic Circle. A traffic circle, or roundabout, is an elevated area in the middle of an intersection that allows the counter-clockwise flow of traffic for low-speed operations.
Choke Point. A choker is a physical constriction built along the curbside of a street to narrow a roadway. The choker extends the curb while widening the planting strip of a street. These types of devices work well in combination with speed humps and raised crosswalks. The design of the choker will limit lane widths to a minimum of 10 feet.
Raised Crosswalks. Raised crosswalks are devices installed on residential streets to reduce speeds while providing a marked crossing area for pedestrians. The design of the raised crosswalk is similar to the flat top speed hump. The 10 feet flat section is striped with thermoplastic pavement markings to designate a pedestrian crossing.1
Before citizens embark on a request for traffic calming devices in their neighborhood, they must do all the following things:
- Submit written request to NCDOT District Engineer;
- Hire consultant to complete and submit traffic study and project plans;
- Identify all member property owners and submit written verification that at least 60 percent support installation;
- Contact local fire, EMS, law enforcement, and schools and provide written verification that there are no objections or concerns;
- Hire contractor to install devices per approved plans;
- Post performance and indemnity bond as required;
- Provide NCDOT with a maintenance plan and up to date home owners association/neighborhood contact information; and
- Perform all routine and emergency maintenance on the devices (failure to maintain devices can result in removal)
And the neighborhood requesting traffic calming must meet certain criteria:
- A traffic engineering study must be approved by the DOT;
- The installation of the devices must be within one of the following areas: (a) a subdivision with a homeowners association; or (b) a neighborhood in which the property owners have established a contractual agreement outlining the responsibility for the traffic calming device installed in the neighborhood;
- The traffic calming devices are paid for and maintained by the subdivision homeowners association, its successor, or the neighborhood agreement;
- The homeowners association has written support from at least 60 percent of member property owners, or the neighborhood agreement is signed by at least 60 percent of the property owners;
- The homeowners association or the neighborhood agreement post a performance bond sufficient for the maintenance and removal of the traffic calming device(s). The bond shall remain in effect for a period of three years from the date of installation;
- The law also requires that the calming devices conform to specifications approved by the NCDOT.
- Town of Cary, “Traffic Calming”