Delaware leaders are hoping a new program will calm traffic on Hull Drive -- and calm the nerves of residents along the thoroughfare, too.
Delaware City Council members June 24 debated the merits of a plan to use modified pavement striping on the road as a pilot program to gauge its effectiveness at reducing traffic speed.
Since February, council has discussed complaints by the street's residents. Hundreds of vehicles a day use Hull Drive, through the Ravines at Stratford subdivision, to travel between Liberty Road on the west and the Delaware Community Plaza and U.S. Route 23 on the east.
City officials have been reluctant to limit access to Hull Drive because of its designation as one of the city's collector streets.
City engineer Bill Ferrigno in May told council little can be done to reduce the traffic volume on Hull Drive "unless we're willing to decide to move that traffic to another neighborhood."
The June 24 discussion centered on a modified traffic-calming guide prepared by the city engineering staff.
In the meeting's agenda, City Manager Tom Homan wrote he concurred with the idea of using Hull as a pilot program for the striping.
Although it wouldn't affect traffic volume, it would help reduce speeding and address some, but not all, of the residents' complaints, he wrote.
Ferrigno earlier told council pavement striping to create narrow designated lanes and narrow approaches to intersections tends to slow motorists, increasing their perception of risk.
An earlier draft of the traffic-calming guide included a table that could be used to determine how much, if any, of the cost of improvements should be funded by residents.
If the bulk of the traffic travels 30 mph on a street posted as 25 mph, Ferrigno said, it is considered a minor traffic issue. It was earlier suggested residents would have to fund correction of a minor issue.
By comparison, if the bulk of traffic on such a street exceeds 35 mph, that's considered a serious issue, one appropriate for city funding under the earlier table.
Ferrigno in May said traffic counts from January and February show Hull Drive averaged 2,472 vehicles a day, with an average speed of 26.2 mph.
The modified guide replaces the guide with language giving council discretion on determining funds, Ferrigno said.
Homan told council a plan to require residents' funding could have unrealistic elements, in part creating more difficult justification.
While the city administration can initiate traffic control changes without council approval, Homan said he plans for legislation to be presented to council in July, because the street paving will require funding.
Council members Lisa Keller and George Hellinger criticized elements of the plan.
Keller said council earlier wanted metrics on traffic statistics to create objective criteria for traffic-control changes.
If the striping is a pilot program, she said, other streets with a higher percentage of speeding traffic would be more- appropriate test sites than Hull.
Hellinger said the plan is no solution to complaints of traffic volume on Hull, which he said won't change unless the Delaware Community Plaza site is redeveloped, or new traffic signals on U.S. Route 23 create a more-attractive route to Liberty Road.
Council member Kent Shafer said that on one hand, the city easily could cut traffic volume on Hull by banning left turns from Delaware Community Plaza.
Otherwise, he said, it makes sense the traffic-calming guide should provide a starting point.
One of council's roles, he said, is to attempt some remedy when approached by residents with a problem.
"I want to at least try to do something," he said. "My goal here is not to guarantee this is going to solve the problem, but to try and do something to help mitigate that situation."
Council member Jim Browning said the objections of Keller and Hellinger make sense, but in this case, the city is dealing with residents' emotional need to feel safe.
"If we can make the traffic feel slower, I think that's a good thing," he said.