City Council Measure Proposes Installation of 'Speed Tables'

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A new measure brought before the Berkeley City Council Tuesday proposes installing three speed tables on residential streets in Berkeley in order to test their impact on traffic speed.

The speed tables - which are similar to speed bumps with the addition of a 10-foot flat section between up and down ramps, designed to reduce the negative impact on physically sensitive drivers - will be implemented in January 2011 if the measure passes. If there is a measurable reduction in driver speed after six months, the speed tables will be implemented more widely.

Eleven streets originally applied to be part of the pilot program and demonstrated via petition that over 50 percent of residents supported the installation of the tables. The city then picked five possible streets based primarily on proximity to schools, parks and senior centers as well as how many miles per hour over the speed limit the average person in that area is comfortable driving, according to the measure's report.

After meeting with the Berkeley Fire Department, the Berkeley Police Department and the Berkeley ADA Coordinator, the city decided not to install the tables on Alcatraz Avenue between Baker and Idaho streets because all the other streets in the neighborhood also had vertical speed reducers, making that neighborhood effectively closed off to disabled people with extreme physical sensitivity, according to the city's transportation manager Farid Javandel. Speed feedback signs, which use radar to tell drivers how fast they are going, will instead be installed on Alcatraz.

In an effort to address the fire department's concerns, it was decided that a location selected on Rose Street between Ordway Street and Juanita Way would have two speed tables covering only one direction of traffic each, spaced 50 to 100 feet away. This would allow emergency response personnel to slalom between the barriers to avoid losing significant reaction speed.

This "split speed table" trial is a proposed alternative to speed cushions, which are speed bumps with gaps carved out for the uniquely wide-set wheels on fire trucks. However, a potential problem with the split speed tables, according to Javandel, is that cars may illegally weave between the tables when they would not be confronting oncoming traffic.

The Rose location gained preference over another qualified street in District 1 because of its close proximity to Cedar Rose Park, the Ala Costa Center and the Ohlone Greenway. Locations on Forest and Josephine streets were also chosen partly for their proximity to Emerson Elementary School and Martin Luther King Middle School, respectively.

Javandel said this project is an important step in addressing various groups' conflicting interests regarding controlling traffic speed.

"The key is to try to balance the three different needs for traffic calming, emergency response and people with physical sensitivities," Javandel said.

Contact Samantha Strimling at [email protected]

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