Earlier this year our new City Engineer (Jim Bowling) was able to fill an engineering staff vacancy with a civil engineer (Jon Giaquinto) who happens to specialize in traffic engineering and he’s been a great addition to our team. Every city I’ve worked in we’ve had a traffic engineer on staff and I can’t tell you how good it is to have one here now. I say that because when you get right down to it City government is about local issues and quite frankly many local issues end up involving traffic in one way or another. Whether it’s signal timing, locations of stop signs, or site distance safety –traffic issues are a big part of the service that local governments provide so it’s great to have an expert on staff to help us provide it. Here’s an example of what Jon brings to the table as he tries to come up with solutions for neighbor’s concerns with safety at the Fairchild Avenue and Stonewater intersection.
The City received a letter from the homeowners association in the Lakes of Franklin Mills project expressing their concerns for traffic safety as they try to enter and exit their neighborhood from Fairchild Avenue. The City has actually been working on this issue off and on over the last couple of years but with the arrival of Jon I feel like we were really able to do the kind of analysis that would lead us closer to a good decision.
As a short sidebar I have to say that traffic safety is one of our top priorities and we will do whatever we can to ensure optimum public safety. That being said it’s important to remember that a driver’s license is not the same credentials as a traffic engineering degree. I say that as a person that is as guilty as anybody of offering my own traffic solutions only to discover later on (thanks to the professional advice of a good traffic engineer) that what I thought was a reasonable option could indeed make a situation worse.
Stop signs are a good example of that. Everybody likes to suggest installing new stop signs to deal with a speeding problem in a residential neighborhood but the traffic engineers are often the ones that are asked to explain why that isn’t always such a good idea. I’ve seen data that shows new stop signs made traffic safety worse but that seems to defy the logic and common sense test to the lay person so the traffic engineers quickly get labeled as being bureaucrats for following the letter of the law in the traffic safety manuals.
I’m a big believer in compromise when it comes to the practical application of traffic guidelines and I absolutely believe that traffic engineers need to be sensitive to the context of their decisions — but when lives are at risk I’m equally ardent in defending the traffic engineer that is looking to protect us even if it means being less convenient for the casual motorist that can get complacent. The fact is we’re at risk everytime we get in the car so I’m glad the traffic engineers uphold high standards even if I don’t always agree with what they have to say.
It’s like going to your doctor, you don’t always agree with what they recommend (quit smoking, eat less) but given their educational and professional experience they often know what’s best for us even if we don’t want to hear it. Such is the life of the traffic engineer.
Here’s the kind of analysis Jon is providing — and by the way we used to have pay a consultant $10,000 to $15,000 each time we needed to do this kind of analysis — so Jon is not only upgrading our level of service, he’s doing it at a fraction of the cost.
TO: TE & S Committee Members
FROM: Jon Giaquinto
DATE: June 20, 2008
RE: Fairchild Avenue and Stonewater Drive/Adrian Drive Traffic Signal Request
As per the May 9, 2008 Traffic Engineering and Safety meeting, we have studied the Fairchild Avenue and Stonewater Drive/Adrian Drive intersection in response to a request from the Lakes of Franklin Mills Condominium Association and the Lakes of Franklin Mills Homeowners Association in a letter dated April 30, 2008.
From their letter, the Association requested that a traffic signal be installed at the intersection due to the concerns listed below:
- ‘There have been at least 3 traffic accidents at or near the Stonewater/Adrian and Fairchild intersection within a one-year period.’
- ‘The Stonewater/Adrian intersection is blind in both East and West directions when viewed from the Stonewater side. Making a left or right turn from Stonewater onto Fairchild is extremely hazardous.’
- ‘The City of Kent website lists the “Top 25 Intersection Accident Locations” and lists three Fairchild intersections that do not have traffic signals: Fairchild and Fieldstone (19), Stonewater/Adrian and Fairchild (22), and Fairchild and Majors (25).’
- ‘The increased traffic resulting from opening Stonewater to through traffic has the potential of an increased accident rate at the Stonewater/Adrian and Fairchild intersection.’
Traffic Signal Warrant Analysis
The Engineering Division counted traffic at the Fairchild/Stonewater/Adrian intersection for twelve hours over the days of Tuesday, May 20, 2008 (Noon – 6 p.m.) and Wednesday, May 21, 2008 (6 a.m. – Noon) for use in evaluating traffic signal warrants as per the Ohio Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. We also reviewed the recordable crashes on file with the Safety Administration at the intersection. There were four crashes that occurred between the years of 2005-2007. All of the four crashes were out of control, one car crashes that occurred at or near the intersection. The crashes were not caused by sight distance issues and are not the type of crashes that would be corrected by a traffic signal. Currently, a traffic signal is not warranted at this location based upon traffic volumes. We investigated Warrant #1-Eight-Hour Vehicular Volume, Warrant #2-Four-Hour Vehicular Volume, Warrant #3 – Peak Hour and Warrant #7 – Crash Experience.
Based on the current levels of traffic at the intersection, the intersection does not meet any of the warrants we investigated. For example, the traffic counted was only 20% of the required minimum needed to meet the Peak Hour warrant. A copy of the traffic counts, signal warrant analysis and the collision diagram is attached for record.
Intersection Sight Distance
We agree that the existing sight distance is poor for Stonewater Drive traffic looking both to the left (west) and to the right (east). We surveyed the existing landscaping and signage at both the southwest and southeast corners of Fairchild Avenue and Stonewater Drive on June 2, 2008. The survey data shows that the sight lines can be greatly improved by providing clear sight lines behind the existing sidewalk that is free from landscaping and signage that currently restrict the sight distance (see attached photos). The Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) Location and Design Manual, Volume 1 provides design guidelines for intersection sight distance (ISD). Based on the posted speed of Fairchild Avenue (35 mph), the required ISD is 390’. Providing ISD gives the waiting vehicle on Stonewater Drive the ability to judge gaps in the traffic stream to make their desired movement.
To achieve the ISD, the existing retaining wall signs and mounding should be lowered and the landscape plantings comprising the subdivision entrance gateway should be moved from the sight lines on both the southwest and southeast corners of the intersection. Additionally, the elevation of the ground or any plantings, signs, etc… cannot penetrate a 3.5’ vertical line of sight between the driver’s eye and the oncoming vehicle. The 3.5’ height of eye and 3.5’ object height is established by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and is adopted by ODOT to determine the required ISD. The object height is based on a 4.35’ vehicle height, which represents the 15th percentile of vehicle heights in the population of passenger cars less an allowance of 10” which represents a portion of the vehicle height that needs to be visible for another driver to recognize it as an object. Providing ISD for 35 mph will also provide increased stopping sight distance (SSD) for Fairchild Avenue traffic approaching Stonewater Drive. A clear ISD of 390’ will provide a SSD suitable for a 45 mph speed on Fairchild Avenue. A color drawing showing the limits of the clear area needed for the ISD is attached.
Intersection Safety Improvements
The City has taken steps to secure funding to improve high crash intersections over the years. A traffic signal was installed at the highest crash intersection, S.R. 261/Campus Center Drive (as per the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS) data), in 2004 and the City is currently putting together funding to improve the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th highest crash locations (AMATS data) in the City using local, state and federal funds.
West Main Street (S.R. 59) and Stonewater Drive
The City is currently designing the connection of Stonewater Drive to West Main Street. It is anticipated that some increase in traffic may result on Stonewater Drive when the connection is completed. The City will continue to monitor traffic volumes on Stonewater Drive by periodically taking counts and evaluating traffic warrants as necessary.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or need additional information.
Attachment #1 – Download Traffic Counts
Attachment #2 – Signal Warrant Analysis
Attachment #3 – Collision Diagram
Attachment #4 – Photos
Attachment #5 – Intersection Drawing
Nice work Jon.