After months of searching for traffic-calming devices and overwhelming requests from residents for speed humps, the council will make a final decision Aug. 14 about purchasing 20 radar speed signs for $79,500 using the 2011 special purpose local option sales tax.
Councilman Johnny Sinclair, the lone opposition to the purchase, believes 20 signs is excessive. Sinclair recommended starting with five, especially since the council was willing to sign off on the purchases without a list of where the signs are needed.
Councilman Anthony Coleman asked staff to create a list of streets that the Marietta Police Department suggests targeting.
Councilman Grif Chalfant said he supported the purchase and could name at least five locations that would be perfect, including Arden Drive and Longwood Drive in southwest Marietta off Powder Springs Street.
Most drivers on these streets, Chalfant said, do not realize how much speed they are gaining on hills and will respond to the radar signs.
“Some of those streets just cry out for people to be aware of how fast they are going,” he said. “Most people want to obey the law.”
Sinclair compared the radar signs to types of pedestrian crossings that use “flashing lights to remind people how fast they are going.”
Efforts to install those types of warning signals have been shot down by the council because of claims drivers will still speed, Sinclair said.
Mayor Steve Tumlin said he believes speeders will slow down because the radar signs instill a “presence by the city and police force.”
Tumlin said the machines might be an eyesore, but the unattractiveness is outweighed by the public safety purpose.
“I think (radar speed signs) bring a lot of peace of mind to a neighborhood,” Tumlin said.
The signs are the latest in safety technology that is proven to slow down speeders, according a report by Dan Conn, the director of the Public Works department.
The report provided what the public works department considers to be proof that the radar speed signs reduce traffic speeds, especially high speeds.
The city installed an electronic sign on Church Street as part of a median improvement project at Margaret Street, funded by WellStar.
The intersection without a radar speed sign was monitored for a week at the beginning of February 2012, then again the following week after the unit was placed there.
The report stated that during the week without the radar sign, half of the drivers were traveling between 41 and 50 mph. But once the sign was installed, 81 percent of the drivers were going at or below the posted speed limit of 35 mph.
City staff told the council another benefit is that the new signs would allow the city to download data to track peak times that speeding occurs on major roads.
The electronic signs are an alternative to speed humps, which the Public Works Department does not place on hills or curvy roads where the speed hump would not be visible to the driver.
The city already owns four radar speed signs, three of which were donated. One was purchased with funds from the 2005 SPLOST and is at Polk Street between the 120 Loop and Winn Street.
The signs are moveable, which allows for flexibility, but because the large units are mounted to the ground, staff recommended not moving them more than every six months to a year.
Sinclair questioned whether the uncomfortable feeling of being caught speeding by the radar sign will last as drivers pass the same unit over a long period of time.
There is $385,000 left of the $400,000 earmarked in the SPLOST traffic-calming fund.