The recent installation of nine traffic calming devices on a short stretch of Camino Francisca in northern Santa Fe is agitating some residents.
The biggest complaint about the speed humps, set 300 feet apart, is that the city didn’t notify all the neighbors affected by them before the project began.
Erik Garcia, manager of the 245-unit Zocalo Condominiums, a luxury complex at the end of Camino Francisca, said people living in the condos were “blindsided” by the roadwork. “We’re the ones that were affected the most as far as number of doors and units because this is the entrance to our property,” he said.
John Romero, director of the city’s Engineering Division, said the Zocalo residents weren’t included for a reason: They live beyond the stretch of road proposed for traffic calming.
“The way the [traffic calming] policy is currently set up,” Romero said, “the intent is to take into consideration the affected people that live on the street, not the people that travel through the street.”
People who travel through a neighborhood are often “trying to go through with some form of efficiency,” Romero said.
In other words, they’re speeding.
If everyone who drove through an area was included in a survey on a proposed speed hump project, “then it would almost definitely die every time,” Romero said. “We wouldn’t be able to do any traffic calming.”
It was speeding that prompted Hugh Balaam, chairman of the Santa Fe Estates Neighborhood Association, to reach out to the city for a solution on the curved road, which posed dangers for residents.
“I had a number of residents that voiced that they’d almost gotten hit coming out of their driveway,” he said. “Also, we don’t have sidewalks on that street. People like to walk. If you’ve got traffic going at high speeds, it can be dangerous to pedestrians.”
Balaam said traffic has slowed down “considerably” since the speed humps were installed about a month ago.
Everything was done by the book when the Camino Francisca project was planned, Romero said.
The city’s traffic calming program calls for a three-step process that starts with a petition from an applicant, with signatures from neighbors who approve of installing devices. To initiate a traffic study, the applicant must get signatures from a third of the people in the “polling area,” which Romero said is defined as “up to 500 feet on either side of the area to be traffic calmed.”
Balaam obtained the required number of signatures from the couple of dozen homes along a stretch of Camino Francisca to start the process.
He said he first contacted District 1 City Councilor Signe Lindell, who shared his concerns about speeding drivers with police.
“On occasion, they would come out and do some enhanced traffic enforcement, but obviously they don’t have the resources to do it on any kind of continuing basis,” he said. “Signe then forwarded one of the emails to the traffic engineering department, and they contacted me with the information on how to go about petitioning for a traffic survey to be done to see if that stretch of the road qualified for the traffic calming measures.”
The city considers three criteria: traffic volume, cut-through traffic and speeds of motorists.
A street must receive a minimum score of 40 points to be eligible for traffic calming; Camino Francisca scored 55.
“When they conducted the traffic survey … 15 percent of the cars traveling on that road were going over 40 miles per hour, so you can see that speeding was an issue,” Balaam said about Camino Francisca, which has a posted speed limit of 25 mph.
“Nobody likes [speed humps], but if you’ve got people going that fast and with disregard for pedestrians and local traffic, then, you know, they seem to work,” he said.
Garcia, the Zocalo manager, said some residents of the complex aren’t opposed to the speed humps.
“I hear people that support them and people that are against them, but even the people that support them were like, ‘Well, they could’ve at least let us know or something,’ ” he said.
Still, others wondered why nine speed humps were installed so close together, Garcia said.
Romero had an answer: “We space them depending on what speed we want people to travel. … If you place them at 300 feet apart, you’re going to get people going a maximum of 25 miles an hour, so these speed humps that we put in are designed to be traversed between 18 and 23 miles an hour.”
Romero said he recently met with some Zocalo residents to explain the process.
“I wouldn’t say that they liked the humps, but it was a very professional meeting,” he said. “A lot of people still weren’t happy with the answers because the answer they wanted to hear is that we we’re going to remove the humps.”
Speeders fund the city’s traffic calming program through citation fees — and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.
“When we first did the traffic calming program, there was such a demand for [traffic calming devices] that you had to be put on a waiting list until we accrued enough revenue,” he said. “Right now, we’ve consistently had enough revenue to fund traffic calming projects as they come up.”
Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.