Sparrow In RPB Misses Vote Threshold For Traffic Calming

As the Village of Royal Palm Beach continues to consider traffic-calming measures in neighborhoods that qualify, results of a recent poll were released last week determining that Sparrow Drive residents’ support did not meet the necessary threshold.

In May 2016, the Royal Palm Beach Village Council directed staff to design a traffic-calming policy to respond to residents’ concerns about speeding on neighborhood roadways. An engineering study is conducted to see whether a requested roadway fits the policy requirement. Residents must then vote via mail-in ballot with 50 percent plus one in favor for traffic calming to be implemented on a neighborhood roadway.

The portion of Sparrow Drive between Royal Palm Beach Blvd. and Crestwood Blvd. failed to achieve the 50 percent plus one vote needed in results released on Friday, Jan. 26. “Essentially, the findings were that it was eligible for traffic calming in accordance with the village policy,” Village Engineer Chris Marsh said. “At that point, we took all the parcels that were immediately adjacent to Sparrow Drive from Royal Palm Beach Blvd. to Crestwood Blvd., and we sent out ballots to them.”

Sparrow Drive is the second roadway to have gone through the full step-by-step process for the policy. Once the road was considered for traffic calming, a special meeting was conducted.

“At the special meeting, the consultant was there, Village Manager Ray Liggins and myself were there,” Marsh said. “[Councilman] Jeff Hmara was in attendance, and there were two other residents who came to the meeting.”

Marsh said the two residents were encouraged to take the initiative to have their neighbors participate in the resident voting process whether they were for or against it.

“Their goal, leaving the meeting, was to get additional residents in favor of it. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. There was a pretty low response in ballots that were received,” Marsh said.

In addition to the 47 residences adjacent to the area of Sparrow considered for the policy, Crestwood Middle School was allowed a vote for or against the policy.

“There were 14 yes votes, four no votes, and we actually excluded four because we received mail back that they were actually vacant, so we excluded them from the vote, which amounted to 32.6 percent in favor, which fell short of the 50 percent.”

Sandpiper Avenue was the first street that met the requirements for the traffic-calming policy, and after an adjustment of an older form of the policy, it met the 50 percent plus one vote needed to implement it on the part of the roadway adjacent to residential homes.

The project to implement traffic calming on Sandpiper was awarded to Florida Blacktop Incorporated for a little more than $365,000.

“Sandpiper includes signage and striping for the traffic calming, along with speed humps, which will be constructed out of asphalt,” Marsh said.

A pre-construction meeting for the project was scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 31.

Ponce de Leon Street, meanwhile, underwent the engineering study, but it did not meet the criteria necessary to be considered for traffic calming.

“The 85-percentile speeds were below 35 miles per hour, and the 95-percentile speeds were below 45 miles per hour,” Marsh said. “It did not meet the criteria required to implement traffic calming, so we will not be moving forward on Ponce de Leon.”

La Mancha Avenue is the next street going through the residential voting process to determine whether the policy will be implemented.

The village is expected to mail ballots to the adjacent residences in the next few weeks, Marsh said.

“We probably will try to time La Mancha, so the traffic humps on Sandpiper are in prior to accepting those ballots,” Marsh said. “So, people can actually drive over them and see what they physically look like.”

After La Mancha is put through the full process, it will be the last of the first group of roadways in Royal Palm Beach to be considered under the new traffic-calming policy. Future roadways could be considered through residential requests.

“Our policy allows a single resident to contact the engineering department,” Marsh said. “The engineering department will then evaluate the request. What I’ll look at initially is the segment lengths that they’re looking to have the traffic calming. I’ll do an estimate on that volume of traffic on that link to determine whether they would have a chance of meeting the criteria.”

The policy requires that a roadway average a volume of 1,000 to 3,000 trips, which Marsh said his department can estimate.

“And there is a length requirement, because we certainly wouldn’t want to put speed humps on cul-de-sacs,” he said.

For Sandpiper, once the speed humps have been constructed, a post-construction study will be conducted after project completion.

“The traffic-calming policy requires us to do a follow-up study six months after the traffic calming has been implemented to verify that it, in fact, is reducing speeds,” Marsh said. “The idea behind it, obviously, is to have sound criteria for implementing it, and then once it gets implemented to have the buy-in from the neighborhood, so it stays.”