GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
Nobody said “Mister Mayor, TAKE DOWN THIS SIGN!” Which is a shame, because it would have made a great title for this post.
It was ward-against-ward, neighborhood-against-neighborhood Dec. 3 just as it was two years ago when the previous city council gave Ritchie Ave residents TEMPORARY traffic restrictions on their street. During rush hour cars can’t turn onto Ritchie Ave. This is aimed at commuter cut-through traffic.
Just as they were in 2010, city residents on nearby streets are outraged because Ritchie Ave. is a preferred, time-saving route (but don’t call them “cut-through” traffic since they are city residents and pay for city streets – or so the argument goes). Now, they are outraged because “temporary” has been going on for years. The city said it would be for 9 months.
The gripers got the sympathies of councilmembers Kay Daniels-Cohen (Ward 3), Jarret Smith (Ward 5), and Fred Schultz (Ward 6). Near the end of a long public argument, . . . er “discussion” of the matter, Daniels-Cohen made a motion to take the traffic restriction signs down immediately. Smith seconded and Schultz voted in favor.
They were voted down 4 to 3 by Mayor Bruce Williams, and council members Seth Grimes (Ward 1), Tim Male, (Ward 2) and Terry Seamens (Ward 4). The vote followed a short lecture by Grimes about stare decisis, a term meaning, roughly, “respect decisions made by predecessors.” Grimes also pointed out that the city was in fact on schedule to put in traffic calming. The trigger event was not the erection of the signs, but the erection of signs in the Sligo Hills neighborhood just outside the city. That was 9 months ago.
Seamens, who lives on Ritchie Ave. has been a staunch advocate of the restrictions. The neighborhoods most inconvenienced are in adjacent Ward 3. Residents from Ward 2 and 6 are connected to Ward 4 by Sligo Creek Parkway. That’s the artery that feeds the “cut-through” traffic into the smaller residential streets of Sligo Hills, and onto Ritchie Ave.
Residents proposed other schemes earlier in the meeting, most of them to do with making exemptions for various groups: parents taking their children to school, neighborhood residents, all city residents, school busses, and so forth. These were rejected because they would be complicated to implement and enforce.
The Mayor said that since the last big traffic restriction (Manor Circle), the city observed that traffic restrictions only move problems to the next neighborhood. So, the council is loathe to do it any more. Traffic calming is their preferred option.
This whole mess is Montgomery County’s fault. Big surprise, right?
Two years ago residents in the Sligo Hills neighborhood bordering the city petitioned the county to block their streets to commuter cut-through traffic.
To make a long story short, they got what they wanted, despite opposition from city officials, and a lot of complaints about the county’s traffic study that made it all possible.
This meant all the cut-through traffic would go down the next available street – Ritchie Avenue. That’s what Ritchie residents feared, anyway. So, they asked the city to block traffic on their street.
The council doesn’t like to block traffic – because it just pushes the traffic to the next road. And there were troops of citizens from other streets marching on the council chambers to make just that point. Many said they use Ritchie to drop their children off at school. Not allowing morning rush-hour turns onto Ritchie added time and complexity to their route. They all sorta overlooked existing restrictions, however.
What the council DOES like is to put in traffic calming measures to slow the traffic down. This makes it safer and annoys the more frantic commuters into abandoning that route.
So, the council did a little of both. They scheduled the construction of traffic calming stuff on Ritchie. In the meantime, they put up a sign restricting turns onto Ritchie at certain times.
Councilmember Seamens urged the acting city manager to put a priority on installing traffic calming measures on Ritchie.
Also Dec. 3 the city council unanimously approved a contractor to develop a city “Environmental Sustainability Action Plan.” This is, finally, what the city is doing to follow the Task Force on Environmental Action’s recommendation to hire a “sustainability coordinator.” It was the first of two votes.
Dec. 3 was the last city council meeting of 2012. They’ll come back in January. Gilbert will do a end-0f-year review so Dear Readers can relive all the thrills.