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Uneasy street

Traffic planners say putting cobblestone roads will slow the speeders in New Suburb Beautiful. But some residents are skeptical.

[Times photo: Thomas M. Goethe]
Mayson Atkinson scoots along the sidewalk in front of his home on Prospect Avenue in New Suburb Beautiful. With children often playing in the front yards and sidewalks, residents are trying to find a way to slow speeders. The latest proposal is to put in cobblestone.

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 8, 2002

Williamsburg it isn't, but city officials say fake cobblestones in New Suburb Beautiful will pave the way in easing future traffic worries.

For the first time, a textured pavement resembling cobblestones will be laid on city streets to slow traffic, said city traffic engineer Debbie Herrington.

"It's very effective," Herrington said. "It gets the point across. It says, "You are in a neighborhood now.' "

Residents, who worry about speeding, already have doubts about the psuedo stones. They were told of a possible test site two week ago.

"I think we will need more than cobblestones," said Glen Coker, president of the New Suburb Beautiful Civic Association. "I think it will look nice. But will it slow the traffic down? I don't think it is the solution."

Resident Julie Atkinson echoed the concerns.

"Do people have to slow down to go over it," asked Atkinson. "Will it work? We just don't know. I hope so."

City officials have spent months experimenting with what works and what doesn't work in New Suburb Beautiful.

Complaints about speeders prompted a study, then a series of temporary "traffic calming" devices aimed at getting drivers to slow down.

The stop signs halted traffic for time. The makeshift minicircle caused some confusion. Both devices were at Prospect and Watrous avenues, which is an entrance to New Suburb Beautiful.

Now comes the cobblestones called bomanite. Designers haven't decided on a final location, but hope to pave a section of Watrous, not far from where the other devices were used.

"The bomanite does slow people down," Herrington said this week. "We are hoping it will give them what they need." The new surface could be on the ground within three months at a cost of about $4,000, Herrington said.

She plans to meet with neighbors within the next two weeks to ask them about color and design. Residents could pick a brick pattern if they prefer, but the design calls for the distinctive cobblestones.

Coker said he hasn't heard from city officials about a meeting. He's trying to be optimistic.

"It's a a good start," he said. "We have to wait and see."

Coker said he would like the city to consider speed tables to slow speeders.

That's not likely.

If the test site is successful, Herrington said all the entryways and intersections in New Suburb could be paved with bomanite to remind drivers they are in a residential area.

Not considered in the plan are speed tables, which are flatter than speed bumps. These are used for severe speeding problems, Herrington said.

While residents complain about speeding, a study by a consulting firm hired by the city to study traffic patterns in three neighborhoods showed that New Suburb doesn't have a severe speeding problem, Herrington said. Severe speeding is characterized by drivers racing at least 10 miles over the posted speed limit. The speed limit in New Suburb is 25 mph.

The study indicated some people were speeding, said Bill Oliver of Tindale-Oliver, who conducted the traffic study. He said that the textured pavement should help.

"I think it's worth trying," Oliver said this week.

Neighbors maintain cars race through their streets, causing a threat to children and senior citizens.

"Some cars use (the streets) as a racetrack to zig in and out," said Atkinson, who lives on Prospect Avenue, next to the test site. "We are a front-yard neighborhood. Kids are just running in and about. I think a lot of people don't realize how fast they are going."

- Jennifer L. Stevenson can be reached at 226-2405 or Times Researcher John Martin contributed to this story.

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