Calming the speed beast Anne Arundel County: Officials should be judicious about use of humps to slow traffic.

April 21, 1997

NOTHING IS MORE frightening than motorists racing through residential areas, jeopardizing life and limb. For many neighborhood associations, slowing traffic through their communities has become a top priority.

Anne Arundel County officials have recognized this concern and have developed a variety of solutions. County Executive John G. Gary has put an extra $100,000 into next year's budget to finance construction of one solution -- speed humps.

Many suburban streets encourage speeding. They are wide, flat, straight and don't have many crossings. Corners have wide turning radiuses.

Now traffic engineers are, in effect, countering the design of these streets by installing "traffic calming" devices, as they call them. This includes building traffic islands, narrowing intersections and lanes and, the latest innovation, putting in speed humps.

The devices aren't pretty, but many communities covet them. These gently sloped, 22-foot-long mounds of asphalt raise the level of the road about three inches at their peak.

They obstruct the road slightly and force drivers to slow down. Unlike speed bumps often found in parking lots, they don't damage fire, police or ambulance equipment traveling at high speeds, nor do they damage snow plows.

Since October 1995, the county has installed speed humps on an experimental basis in several communities. At present, about 40 requests are pending for additional ones. Just because a community wants one does not mean the county builds it. Officials meet with citizens, analyze traffic flows and speeds and determine whether one is appropriate.

Such deliberation helps ensure that the county gets enough brake for its buck. Montgomery County has been more willing to place these humps on the street, but a recent survey discovered that drivers are still speeding on 25 out of 27 of those streets, albeit not quite as recklessly.

At about $1,200 per hump, the county must be cautious about installing them. From their experience, officials seem to realize that speed humps aren't the whole answer for slowing drivers who selfishly ignore the risks they pose to children and the rest of us.

Pub Date: 4/21/97

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