CHARLES TOWN – Will more stop signs on a residential street make a neighborhood safer?
Maybe, maybe not, the Charles Town City Council acknowledged.
With that consensus, the council voted 5-3 on Monday, with eyes toward possibly addressing common traffic concerns similarly in other city neighborhoods, voted 5-3 to add stop signs and white “stop bar” pavement markings on South Mildred Street.
“Mildred Street could be like a prototype of, like, how we want to handle these residents streets in the city,” said Mayor Bob Trainor.
The City Council members admitted that they weren’t sure their action would improve pedestrian safety in the South Mildred neighborhood. They also agreed that the city should hire traffic safety experts to more assuredly address the worries of residents on South Mildred and other neighborhoods.
“I do believe that other neighborhoods are watching,” said Councilwoman Jean Petti, who lives and directly represents the South Mildred residents in Ward 3. “There’s should be no reason why we should be hoping that nobody gets hurt when we know better,” she also said.
The council responded to a petition presented earlier from residents who say they have long been worried about pedestrian safety on South Mildred. Several residents said they were concerned with speeding motorists as well as parked cars blocking motorists from seeing pedestrians.
The speed limit on South Mildred is 25 mph, a standard speed limit posted throughout the city’s neighborhoods, city officials said.
As a result of the council’s action, four-way stop signs will be added at the intersections of Academy and Mason Street. The white-bar pavement markings will also be added where stop signs control traffic onto South Mildred at Academy, Hunter and Mason streets and at Forrest Avenue.
Caution was voiced by some council members who listened to warnings from police Chief Chris Kutcher that stop and yield signs aren’t cure-alls for roadway safety.
Councilman Chet Hines voiced concern that adding stop signs could drive more traffic down sometimes narrower city streets and alleyways nearby.
Trainor and Kutcher suggested street parking—particularly parking near intersections—should be reviewed for pedestrian safety.
City staff presented the council with U.S. Department of Transportation guidelines that state stop and yield signs should not be used as speed-control measures on streets and highways.
“We really don’t know what traffic control devices we should use,” Trainor said, assessing the comments during a council discussion. “We could put up a bunch of stops signs and maybe it works or maybe it doesn’t work. We don’t know.”
Trainor and councilmen Mike George and Mike Brittingham were most vocal about wanting to see more traffic data and obtain more expert advice on what changes to traffic controls on residential streets would be safe and effective.
“I see both sides of this equation,” Brittingham remarked. “I don’t think adding stop signs is going to create some horrific traffic issue ... . At the same point I want the data. I want to know is this something that is actually going to alleviate the concerns that are being raised.”
The council members agreed to discuss later the possibility of hiring traffic experts to study the issue and make recommendations in the future.
George, Brittingham and Councilwoman Rikki Twyford voted against adding the stop signs and stop bars without more information.
“I feel like this is a growing-pains issue for our city,” Petti said. “We are going to have to continue to address traffic in our residential areas and balance the needs of the people who are living and walking—and the children who are playing there—and the people who do need get out and get to work or get home at the end of the day,” she said.