Davenport City Council members this week advanced plans for a pilot project aimed at slowing speeding drivers on residential streets, despite reservations from some aldermen.
Council met Wednesday to discuss bids received by the city to install speed humps on 31st and 32nd streets between Eastern and Belle avenues to calm traffic and increase safety on neighborhood streets where traffic data shows a large percentage or consistent pattern of vehicles exceeding the speed limit.
City staff have recommend awarding a $53,780 contract to Langman Construction of Rock Island to install five speed humps each on 31st and 32nd streets.
Speed humps are areas of pavement raised three to four inches high and 12-14 feet wide. Often accompanied by pavement markings and signs to alert motorists, they're typically used to deter cut-through traffic on low-volume residential streets with a maximum posted speed limit of 30 mph, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
The speed humps force drivers to reduce speed by inducing shocks and vibrations to the vehicle passing over it at higher speeds.
"It's a smooth transition so it's not jarring (like a speed bump), but provides an elevation difference where it slows down speeding vehicles," City Engineer Brian Schadt told alderman during a briefing about the proposed pilot project in July.
Council members were largely supportive of the concept this summer. Ald. Rick Dunn, Ward 1, and Ald. Marion Meginnis, Ward 3, however, expressed surprised to see a contract come before the city absent further discussion and an approved policy with criteria to assess which neighborhood streets would qualify for the traffic calming measures.
"I've had people screaming for a long time, 'I need speed humps. I need speed humps.' And we always tell them, 'No, we don't have a policy. Therefore, we can't do it,'" Dunn said. "I was under the understanding before we rolled this out, we'd have a policy directing how we do this. ... It seems we have the cart before the horse."
Meginnis echoed Dunn.
If approved by aldermen next week, the speed humps will be installed in the first half of November, and city staff would perform another traffic study to determine the impacts of the speed humps on cut-through and speeding traffic, Schadt said.
Public Works would also monitor snow and ice removal during the winter and report back to the City Council on the effectiveness and applicability of using speed humps in residential neighborhoods for future traffic calming projects.
"Our perception was we were going to try a pilot project and use that to guide what the policy is," City Administrator Corri Spiegel said. "Are they effective? Do they move the problem one block down? There's a lot we don't know."
Schadt said the traffic calming measures work best on long, wide streets that don't have much on-street parking. But, he added city engineering staff would develop a scoring system to evaluate each street based on traffic volume, tracking drivers' speed and whether it's near a school or bike path, among other factors.
Meginnis, whose ward includes downtown Davenport and many of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, too, worried the traffic calming measures would be reserved for Davenport's more affluent areas, and ignore traffic-safety needs in older parts of Davenport. Other cities typically have assessed property owners to pay for similar projects.
"If we will assess the neighbors for it, it is going to end up in the more affluent sections of our city and not in our poorer ones" that have a high concentration of rental properties, she said. "Landlords are never going to invest in this. ... I hope we don't go there, because that is the worst."
Aldermen Kyle Gripp, at-large, and Ben Jobgen, Ward 6, said they chose the east Davenport neighborhood to pilot the traffic calming project after being approached by residents in the area in favor of the traffic calming measure.
Schadt estimated about 2,000 vehicles a day travel on that span of 31st and 32nd streets, with a sizable number of drivers traveling in excess of 15 miles per hour over the 30 mph posted speed limit.
"The biggest complaint that I've heard from folks is this didn't start in my neighborhood first," Gripp said. "So there seems to be a lot of demand for this program, and I think this is a good, logical way to roll this out. I understand the equity issues. ... But, with this, I think we need to roll it out to a targeted area. We need to check for how effective it is. ... And we have a neighborhood that very clearly meets the criteria, and a very engaged neighborhood."
In other business
Davenport aldermen on Wednesday also held a public hearing over plans to create a new zoning district as part of an effort to reposition NorthPark Mall and surrounding property for redevelopment.
The city plans to rezone about 143 acres in the area bounded by Northwest Boulevard, Kimberly Road, Brady Street, East 42nd Street, Welcome Way and by the north lot line of NorthPark Mall from general commercial to "City Centre District." The district is intended to position Davenport for revitalization focused on a regional mix of commercial, high-density residential and entertainment uses that encourages compatible development and redevelopment while promoting local reinvestment.
Aldermen also considered awarding up to a $1.2 million contract for engineering services to McClure Engineering Company of North Liberty, Iowa, for the Duck Creek Interceptor Extension project.
The project was approved as part of a more than $43 million spending plan for projects funded by federal money received as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The project will extend the current Duck Creek interceptor sewer line from to the existing wastewater treatment lagoon located at the northwest corner of Locust Street and Interstate 280.
Spiegel said the project will allow the city to abandon the lagoon system as a required under a federal water pollution control permit, and allow for future growth at the West Locust business park and for future expansion along the Locust Street corridor.