Temporary speed tables at roundabout cause commotion
August 21, 2014
WEST BLOOMFIELD — West Bloomfield residents and township officials expressed concern about the speed tables installed at a roundabout located at Maple and Farmington roads, but according to the Road Commission for Oakland County, the tables are temporary and part of a national study.
The speed tables, which are essentially ramped platforms that rise about 3-3.5 inches off the ground, are estimated to be removed by the end of August, and as of press time, half were still in place.
The RCOC’s Public Information Officer, Craig Bryson, explained that while some believe the speed tables were placed to slow down traffic, they actually were installed as part of a national study involving the Federal Highway Administration and transportation officials from across the country to try to identify the best way for pedestrians to cross roundabouts.
The National Cooperative Highway Research Program approached the RCOC about participating in a temporary study since the Road Commission has existing roundabouts. There currently are 23 roundabouts in Oakland County, and 19 of those are under the RCOC’s jurisdiction, while four are municipal. West Bloomfield has three roundabouts with one more coming in 2015, Bryson said.
“Within the transportation world, this is a pretty big issue. How do you ensure pedestrians’ safety (when) crossing roundabouts?” Bryson said.
Once the data collection of the Maple-Farmington roundabout is completed, which was estimated to be done around Aug. 15, Bryson said the RCOC will remove all of the tables. In addition, Bryson explained, the only cost to the RCOC was the labor for installing the speed tables, and the data collection and tables themselves were provided federally.
“The intent of this ... is leading up to a federal ruling on what techniques will be required by the federal government to help pedestrians cross roundabouts,” Bryson said. “While it may be a slight inconvenience for local motorists, we think it’s part of an important national discussion that will hopefully promote safety of pedestrians crossing roundabouts.”
The data collection itself only lasted a couple of weeks, he said, but the speed tables were slated to be in place for about a month and a half.
Bastian Schroeder, principal investigator with the Transportation Research Board, could not be reached for comment on the study.
A few years ago, according to Bryson, the RCOC was involved in an Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit where attorney Richard Bernstein filed a suit against the RCOC, alleging that visually impaired and handicapped individuals were having difficulty crossing roundabouts. The lawsuit resulted in the RCOC installing a High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk signal at the Maple-Drake roundabout in West Bloomfield and rapid flashing beacons at the Maple-Farmington roundabout.
“We are very curious to see the results of the national research to see if there is anything better out there. It’s a new and evolving field,” Bryson said.
According to West Bloomfield Police Lt. Curt Lawson, there have not been any pedestrian accidents in the last two years at either the Drake-Maple or the Farmington-Maple roundabouts.
The West Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees opposed the speed tables at the July 24 board meeting, but because the RCOC owns and maintains the township roads, their opposition had no effect on the RCOC’s participation in the study.
Township Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste said that the board opposed the installation on account of Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital being in close proximity to the roundabout, and the board was concerned about emergency medical service transports.
“Our Fire Station No. 2 is also in close proximity of the speed (tables), and 80 percent of their runs are EMS-related. They are continuously transporting patients from that area to the hospital,” Economou Ureste said.
Economou Ureste said that after she contacted Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital to notify them that the RCOC was “simply not going to recognize” her opposition, the hospital’s private ambulance service reportedly submitted a letter of opposition to the RCOC, as well.
Residents in the West Bloomfield area also reached out to the Beacon and expressed their concerns about the speed tables.
“Unfortunately the placement of the tables — on top of the crosswalks — would no way slow down a car before it hit a pedestrian,” said West Bloomfield resident Stephen Bertman in an email. “In short ... the speed tables at Maple and Farmington (roads) were installed in exactly the wrong place to be of any use.”
If research shows that speed tables are the safest option for pedestrians, Bryson said that ultimately, it would be the Federal Highway Administration that would regulate a national implementation; however, he said it is a complex process that includes a public hearing. The decision-making process can take years, he added.
“Likely, they would require a variety of crosswalk techniques or technologies and probably would allow different options based on traffic volumes and physical environments. It’s not like there would be one solution for all roundabouts,” Bryson said.
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