NOTE: The following is a guest posting by Dan Miller, 5th Ward Commissioner:
There is a controversy brewing in the streets of Mt. Lebanon's 5th Ward. As a resident here for over six years I have learned that such fervor can mean only one thing- a debate over traffic.
This new Commission inherited a partially voted upon traffic calming plan that focuses on the Mapleton cut through corridor. I say partially because one element of this plan is already in implementation. New traffic signals are sprouting up on Cochran Road from Cedar to Bower Hill. If you have ever tried to take a left from Cochran to Bower Hill, you know why there is a problem- the current timing pattern on those lights do little to help speed the flow of traffic on those primary roads. This is a clear contributor as to why people feel compelled to cut through the Mapleton corridor.
But those lights are not the controversy.
Instead, there is a debate about a series of turn restriction signs that would limit access to and from Bower Hill on a number of secondary streets. The Traffic Board has been working on this plan for at least the last couple years. The main focus is on Mapleton. It links Cedar with Bower Hill and is absent any traffic lights, provides steep slopes for cars to fly down, and has stop signs that many consider to be optional. Each resident on Mapleton can tell stories of near-misses or the inability to pull out of their driveway because of traffic. Several will tell you how they have been yelled at for parking in front of their own homes. In recent years these problems have only increased as more traffic comes from USC and Peters to meander through this area in the never-ending search to save a couple of minutes from their commute.
I was formally presented with a traffic calming plan several months ago. I found it to be unacceptable because I believed it would merely shift the traffic from Mapleton to Marlin Drive. I told the traffic engineer that I would not support it and suggested he develop options that would protect Marlin and perhaps Coolidge. A new plan was created.
In accordance with a campaign promise, I have been taking this plan door to door to both alert residents to its possibility and to solicit feedback. As one can imagine, there is a wide variety of responses. Many who hear of the possibility to cut a couple thousand cars from passing their homes each day are excited. There is another large percentage who are adamantly opposed to any such plan because of a fear that Mapleton's problem will become theirs. And there are those in the middle, who are skeptical but willing to try something as long as I keep my word to remove the signs if the problem was merely shifted to them. (The signs are incredibly cheap compared to the $220,000 spent on the traffic signals.)
Although I have received several much appreciated accolades from residents who were surprised to see a Commissioner at their door who is NOT running for office, I have also received some responses where the tone may be a bit harsh. Although I did not create this plan, as a person who has put himself in the public arena I expect and accept a certain degree of that. However, I have also become aware of harsh arguments between neighbors over this issue as well as some disparaging emails and incorrect flyers that have been circulating.
While I am very pleased that residents are looking to mobilize and participate on this issue, I hope that such a discussion can be done in a manner and tone that is appropriate and respectful of differing opinions. There is clear passion on both sides and I have little hope that my vote on this issue will meet with universal acclaim. This is not an enviable position. However, much like those supporters that have waited for years for the Commission to make a decision regarding the athletic fields or the pool, I believe we cannot pass the buck on this and that we owe people a vote.
Let me reassure you that I will not vote for a plan that I sincerely feel will merely shift traffic from one secondary street to another. If I hadn't raised a concern for Marlin a couple of months ago it is quite likely that a vote on this would have already occurred. I am very much aware that any plan would, at best, be a trade off between adding time for local traffic to enter and exit their own neighborhood versus eliminating a couple of thousand cars thought the area daily- and the impact and preference of both can be subjective.
As a volunteer firefighter I am very concerned with public safety. I am just as concerned for the children at the day care at the bottom of Mapleton as I am for the family that crosses the street on Coolidge. During the next couple weeks I will continue to come to your doors to discuss this issue. I urge you to continue to communicate with each other and the Commission. I promise to double my efforts to make sure this debate is conducted in a manner fitting of our community, and I will continue to document any and all feedback that I receive.
Labels: 5th ward, Dan Miller, traffic calming