The Starkville Board of Aldermen consented funding for the placement of traffic calming devices along University Drive at Maxwell Street at its meeting last week. The devices, used to slow down traffic at busy intersections where pedestrians are at high risk, will include new stop signs and curb extensions — commonly referred to as neckdowns — at the intersection.
The approximated cost for installation is listed as $10,500 in the board's e-packet. Monies needed to begin installing the devices will be drawn from the city's contingency fund.
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas made the motion to approve placement of the devices. He said while installing them will have an impact on traffic flow in that area, it is a necessary compromise when it comes to making sure the intersection is safe for pedestrians.
"There have been questions recently about the impact on traffic (the devices will have), and without a doubt there will be an impact. Here's a road that is heavily traveled ... and will continue to grow," Dumas said. "Those adverse impacts as far as traffic are far outweighed by safety. You have mass volumes of pedestrian movement and I think these are the beginning phases of some of that development."
Local business owners Ty Thames and Brian Kelley, who own Bin 612 as well as Rock Bottom Grill and Bar located in that area, both said they're concerned about their customers as well as student pedestrians who walk through the vicinity.
"The safety of our customers is of paramount importance to us, which is why we have again asked for the city of Starkville to install a traffic calming device at the University Drive/Maxwell Street intersection," Kelley said. "That particular location has been a concern due to the increasingly large number of pedestrians in the area and the number of vehicle-on-pedestrian accidents that have occurred there over the years."
"We've been there seven years and I can tell you at least once a year someone is hit," Thames said. "We want to be preventive ... they have put in speed strips and a blinking yellow light before. There have been things done but they ... aren't permanent. I just don't want anybody to get hurt. People really speed through there and something needs to be done. My concern is just the safety of the students and the people who live in that area."
The option of installing stop signs and neckdowns at the intersection was one of seven compiled by city engineer Edward Kemp. Other options included installing a center island, a raised intersection, pavement street print, stop bars and speed tables. The consented option was the third most conservative economically. The center island option would have an approximate cost of $80,000, while having landscaping on the sides of the road would have totaled $90,000. A raised intersection would have cost $15,000. The only cheaper options would have been installing speed tables or installing stop bars with stop signs as opposed to neckdowns.
"The options presented are seven totally different strategies for traffic calming. I put these together based on typically-used traffic calming measures and put those in front of the board," Kemp said. "There have been accidents where pedestrians were hit in the crosswalk. It's hoped this (approved option, once installed) will prevent that from happening again."