In response to complaints from residents on James Boulevard, the town of Signal Mountain is taking action to reduce speeding along the highly trafficked roadway.
While town officials have received complaints about speeding on Timberlinks Drive, Shackleford Ridge Road and Hidden Brook Lane, among others, James Boulevard resident Wendi Morgan said that particular road is unique because of its heavy pedestrian foot traffic. She was one of several residents to approach officials about the issue during last month's council meeting.
Signal Mountain Police Capt. Scott Ogrodowczyk said the sidewalk on James Boulevard is well used at all times of the day — more so in front of the Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club, as well as before and after school.
Though Ogrodowczyk said James is not a high accident area and a recent study of 100 cars showed an average driver speed of 32 mph on the 30 mph road, Morgan said she often sees drivers texting or otherwise distracted run off the road.
"We see the kind of traffic that's going in front of our house all day long, and it's scary," Morgan said. "I'm getting to the point where I'm afraid to walk my baby from my house to the library."
To combat the issue, the town has installed a driver feedback sign between the 1100 and 1200 blocks of James Boulevard. The electronic sign, purchased for about $2,900, displays the speed limit and tells oncoming drivers what their speed is. It can also be set to give additional feedback, such as flashing if a driver is over the speed limit, Town Manager Boyd Veal said.
The sign is identical to the two placed on Hidden Brook Lane, though Signal Mountain Police Chief Mike Williams said such speed devices do not always alter drivers' traffic patterns.
The device is very effective when drivers are not speeding intentionally, he explained, but unless it is accompanied by a police vehicle, intentional speeders will continue to speed.
In the past, James Boulevard residents have requested a stronger police presence along the road and asked officers to write more citations for offenders, but Williams said with only three officers patrolling the town's 65 miles of road at any given time, accommodating that request is difficult.
"James Boulevard is a priority to us, but not our only priority," he said. "We get a lot of complaints about speeders [throughout the town], and we get to them when we can, but there's only so many of us."
He also said ticketing everyone going only 4 or 5 miles above the limit would only induce more complaints from citizens.
But Williams said he is trying to address residents' concerns, and Morgan said in a followup interview that she has seen more of a police presence since the February meeting.
"We're not taking it lightly," Williams said at the meeting. "We are still staying over there and running enforcement initiatives."
Still, some residents fear it's not enough.
"I just think we're on a ticking time bomb," said Barbara Amabile, who has lived on James Boulevard for five years. "I'm just afraid that one of these days somebody's going to get hit by a car."
To prevent such a tragedy, Amabile started a petition in January to get the speed limit on the road reduced from 30 mph to 25 mph.
"I know 30 mph means 40 for people speeding," she said, adding, "I think if you're traveling 25 miles per hour on James, you could appropriately react if a child came into the road from the sidewalk."
Though she said she only has 15 signatures right now due to an illness-related hiatus, her goal is to get everyone who lives along the road to sign the petition before she turns it in to the mayor for consideration.
During the February meeting, Morgan also proposed additional measures she felt would improve safety for pedestrians on James. Among her suggestions were installing rumble strips, the line of grooves on the shoulder of a roadway that produce noise and vibration when drivers start to go over them. She said the measure would not only alert inattentive drivers when they're running off the road, but also alert nearby pedestrians of the oncoming driver.
Veal urged drivers to be careful and attentive behind the wheel as the town continues to seek solutions for speeding throughout the mountain.
"So many times it's simply a matter of being distracted, not paying attention to what you're doing, thinking about something else, and then it's too late to avoid an issue," he said.
Email Myron Madden at firstname.lastname@example.org.