Mt. Lebanon is changing the way it evaluates traffic problems. The Mt. Lebanon commission has adopted a new policy recommended by the municipal traffic board that prioritizes neighborhood requests using a matrix that assigns a numerical value to the complaint. David DiGioia, traffic board chair, the board, John Bendel, the commission liaison, and police Lt. Michael McMurtrie, staff liaison, have worked long and hard on the policy, which will lead to the development of neighborhood traffic plans and help ensure that severe traffic issues are dealt with promptly, provided funding is available. Here’s how it works:
If residents of a street or neighborhood believe they have a traffic problem, they may request that the traffic board find a solution. Their formal request must include a petition signed by residents from at least 20 households in the immediate vicinity of the location of concern. That number can be waived if the target area affects fewer than 20 households.
Once the request is submitted, a police officer from Mt. Lebanon’s traffic unit will conduct a study of the area. Based on the results of the study, the traffic board determines if the request should be further evaluated. To be eligible for consideration, the area of concern must meet or exceeds one of three criteria listed in the Pennsylvania Traffic Calming Handbook: Average weekday traffic volume; 85th percentile speed (the speed at or below which 85 percent of vehicles travel on the road; and highest one-hour traffic volume on an average day.
Streets are classified as either local or collector streets. Collector streets, such as Cochran and Bower Hill roads, are the conduits between local streets and arterial roads, such as Route 19. Threshold volumes for local streets are: 2,000 vehicles per day; 85th percentile speed of 7 mph above the posted speed limit; and a highest one-hour traffic volume of 200 vehicles. Volumes for collector streets are: 5,000 vehicles per day; 85th percentile speed of 7 mph above the posted speed limit; and a highest one-hour volume of 500 vehicles.
Until November when the new policy was adopted, the traffic board received and acted upon request in the order they came to their attention. Now, the board will assign a point value to the area in question based on the initial study’s results—one point for every 200 vehicles over the daily limit for local streets, (250 for collectors) or one point for every 20 vehicles (for local streets) or 25 for collectors over the hourly limit, whichever of these two point totals is greater; and one point for each mile per hour over the speed limit threshold. If the point total is zero, the board will recommend that no action be taken. All requests with a point value will be considered eligible for a traffic management plan and will be prioritized according to score.
The board categorizes traffic management projects as either speed- or volume-related. Once the list is compiled, it’s up to the municipal manager or the commission to select which plans will be developed.
Once the board determines that an area may need traffic calming, the next step is to hold a public meeting, facilitated by municipal staff, the traffic board and the municipal traffic engineer. The commissioner for the affected area will also be invited.
“We want to get all the stakeholders involved and define what we’re looking at,” says DiGioia.
Once the area is defined, additional traffic data may be required before proposing a solution. A solution could involve installing traffic calming devices, such as speed humps, realigned intersections or a center island, but before those can be agreed upon, a number of factors need to be considered, such as the steepness of the road’s slope, any drainage issues that may result and the impact the changes would have on emergency response and snow removal.
“Most of the requests we receive can be taken care of outside of the traffic calming procedure,” DiGioia says.
One important factor the board must consider is whether or not any proposed remedy merely shifts the problem a few streets over.
Once the municipality is ready with one or more solutions, the next step is a public meeting to present the options and receive input. The goal of this meeting is to reach a consensus on the best way to move forward. The municipality will present cost figures attached to each proposal. If no consensus is reached, there may need to be another meeting, or the request could be returned to the previous step in the process. If everyone can come to an agreement, the next step would be to prepare a final, more detailed cost estimate, scope of work and schedule for proceeding, which would be presented at the next traffic board meeting. Once the board signs off, it recommends the entire package to the commission.
The commissioners can approve the plan as is, amend it, vote it down, table it or send it back to the traffic board for further consideration.
Once the plan is approved, the commission will decide if funding is available in the current year, or if the project needs to be deferred.
After any traffic calming devices are installed, the next step is to gather data on how well the changes are working to calm traffic.
DiGioia expects the same volume of requests under the new policy, and actually hopes the board receives more.
“I would invite people to resubmit requests they may have made in the past. We would like to move at least one traffic project a year through.”
The traffic board meets at 7 p.m., the first Wednesday of each month in the municipal building. To get on the board’s agenda, contact Lt. McMurtrie, 412-440-2034 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Gene Puskar