Church St.

Cars roll through Church St. 

MONROE — The city wants to calm traffic on Church Street by installing nine median islands between Madison Avenue and Hammond Drive. But the City Council might need to calm concerns of longtime residents if the plan is to move forward. 

“None of us residents on Church Street disagree that traffic is a problem,” Linda Sibert told the council at last Tuesday’s work session.

“I think what has upset the neighborhood the most is that we did not find out about this until last Sunday.”

The plan is based on a longstanding desire to slow down cars on one of major routes in and out of town, City Administrator Logan Propes said.

Engineering firm Keck & Wood analyzed traffic on the road for a week in August 2018. It found that cars in the 85th percentile of speed were going 40 mph or faster, when the speed limit is 30 mph. It also recorded 51 cars traveling 65 miles an hour or faster.

Keck & Wood’s Sam Serio said this finding indicated a need for traffic calming.

In a presentation to the council, he said the road was too busy for speed bumps or raised traffic tables. A traffic circle was also deemed unfeasible.

“Median islands were deemed most appropriate given construction costs, the reduction in speed that it would provide, and the minimized effects to the neighboring properties,” Serio said. 

The nine medians would be spaced at 300 to 500 foot intervals. Each is 15 feet long and 5 feet wide. The road would then be widened by 2.5 feet on each side of the road, so cars would have to make a slight adjustment to navigate the medians.

A 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Transportation found a raised center island on a two-lane community road in a rural area could reduce average speed from 35 to 31 mph, and 85 percentile speed from 44 mph to 38 mph.  

The council OK’d a plan to engineer the medians in December, along with eight traffic tables on Davis Street. The medians would cost about $20,000 a piece. The speed tables would be $5,000 each. All told, the traffic calming features on both streets would cost $222,450, taken from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars.

But some Church Street residents were unhappy with both the plan itself and that they were not better informed of it.

“Nothing was ever discussed with anybody in the neighborhood,” Sibert said.

Plus, there were concerns that the 2.5-foot expansion of the roadway would bring the road closer to the sidewalk and that the medians wouldn’t fit with the historic nature of Church Street.

“There’s only going to be a few inches left between the sidewalk and this curbing,” Sibert noted.

Other residents noted similar concerns and wondered if more police presence, additional stop signs or speed cameras could achieve the same effect as the medians.

Councilman David Dickinson, a longtime resident of East Church Street himself, said he’d like to see improvements to the aesthetics of what’s proposed.

“These things, for lack of a better word, look ugly,” Dickinson said, before proposing putting landscaping on the medians.

The City Council will vote on the plan at the full meeting monthly at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Mayor John Howard said there would be time for public input then as well.

“We’d like to see some other options studied. We’d like to ask them to table this,” Sibert said.

Andrew Kenneson was a staff writer for The Walton Tribune from 2018-20.