‘Calming’ delays frustrate area residents 

Plans for speed bumps and traffic circles, approved in 2002, may be streamlined

SAN MATEO — Neighborhood traffic-calming plans are getting stuck in the slow lane.

San Mateo adopted citywide traffic-calming policies in 2002, but neighborhoods eligible for devices such as speed bumps, traffic circles, stop signs and warning signs have had a difficult time getting those items approved, according to Public Works Director Larry Patterson. Some neighborhoods have found that it has taken upwards of three years to get improvements installed.

As a result, city officials are considering streamlining the process at Monday’s City Council meeting. The proposed updates include more flexibility on the speeds and other conditions necessary to make a street eligible for traffic-calming devices, and putting control of consensus-building in the hands of neighborhood groups.

The new policy also includes using speed "cushions" — longer, lower, gentler asphalt bumps — rather than speed humps or speed bumps. Three such cushions will be installed along South Claremont Street near 16th Avenue this month, but some in that neighborhood say the solution won’t deter speeders.

"They are ineffective at more than 30 miles per hour — you can sail right over them," said Pamela Mallett, who lives on South Claremont Street. "It’s disappointing that the most effective options have been proposed to be taken out of traffic calming."

Drivers regularly cut through neighborhoods along Claremont, which runs parallel to Delaware Street, because it has fewer stop signs and other impediments, according to Rick Bonilla, a member of the San Mateo Public Works Commission. Residents along 26th Avenue and on Edinburgh Street report similar problems, Patterson said.

In each neighborhood’s case, it has taken years to come with a solution that a majority of residents can live with, according to senior engineer Gary Heap.

"We’re trying to streamline the process so we can get improvements on the ground faster and cheaper," Heap said.

Updating the policies should make more neighborhoods eligible for traffic-calming measures, according to Heap. Some 17 areas are waiting for some sort of aid, according to Patterson.

In addition to the Claremont speed cushions, the city has experimented with a traffic circle on Fifth Avenue, which will soon be replaced with a permanent one, according to Patterson.

City crews also installed temporary speed humps on Edinburgh and is now analyzing whether they were effective in slowing motorists down without diverting them to other parallel streets, such as Fordham Road.

The San Mateo City Council meets Monday at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 330 West 20th Ave.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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