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City engineer addresses frequent complaints

Louis Najar, engineer for the city of Roswell, stands at a lectern at Thursday’s meeting of the Roswell City Council. Najar gave a PowerPoint presentation and touched on issues his department deals with. (Alex Ross Photo)

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Louis Najar, engineer for the city of Roswell, gave a PowerPoint presentation at Thursday’s City Council meeting to address some of the most frequent questions he receives from the public.

The Engineering Department is in charge of receiving and looking into traffic concerns, Najar said.

When the department receives a complaint they investigate it, often using traffic counters at the location in question. The counter has two loops and when a vehicle goes over the loop it gauges the speed, the direction it is traveling and identifies the type of vehicle.

A study on average takes about seven days, he said.

The counters record speed and how many vehicles.

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Investigations, Najar said, are conducted in accordance with guidelines laid out in the Manuel on Uniform Traffic Control Devices or MUTCD, which is the national standard for traffic safety engineers.

The Engineering Department often receives complaints from the public that stop signs are needed in a given area.

Najar said stop and yield signs cannot be used for speed control, according to the MUTCD. He said if engineers do something that differs from MUTCD standards, it could open the city up to legal challenges.

Four-way stops are also often requested to reduce frequency of accidents in a given location.

An area must have a high volume of traffic for a four-way stop, he said. Among the guidelines laid out in the MUTCD is that an area must have five accidents or more in a given year that could have been prevented if a four-way stop had been in place.

Najar said one example of a complaint he received was to put a four-way stop at the intersection of Lea Avenue and Poe Street. A review of accidents based on police reports at that spot over the last three years was conducted.

In all, there were two accidents at the location in 2016, five in 2017 and three in 2018.

He said that police reports indicated all 10 accidents were due to drivers pulling out from Lea: one was from a joy rider, another due to a brake failure and the others because the driver thought they could make it across the intersection.

“So as I interpret that and as staff interprets that, how will a four-way stop help that?” he asked.

The department did place larger stops signs at the intersection — the largest they are allowed to put is 48 inches by 48 inches and had to be mounted on two posts due to heavy winds.

No parking zones are another subject Najar said his department frequently hears complaints about.

Most of the complaints come from areas near schools, such as on the west side of the recently completed Parkview Elementary. And when they do place no parking signs around the schools, there is a city ordinance that requires the city to give residents free stickers to place on their vehicles that will prevent them from being towed away.

People who live in an area with a no parking sign on their property can go to the Engineering Department at 415 South Richardson Avenue with their car registration and an ID to show that they live at the house in question and they will be given a free parking sticker.

When the department receives a complaint about parking a site review is conducted.

“We usually do multiple visits to verify,” he said.

The most recent study planned now is for Roswell High, which has been a consistent source of complaints throughout the years. Staff with the department will go and see if those complaints are justified.

Signs were recently put up on Pennsylvania Avenue two weeks ago, but now people are starting to park on the west side of the school.

He said fourth and Washington is one place he receives complaints about. He said that often it is not the parents of students who park there illegally but school staff.

Najar said he often gets complaints involving children playing from people who want a “Slow — Children at Play” sign. However, the MUTCD does not include Children at Play signs or any variation.

Studies show Children at Play signs do not slow the speed of traffic or make drivers more observant, Najar said.

“As a motorist, we should expect children in a residential area,” he said.

Najar said his department fields complaints about frequent speeding from just about every neighborhood and street in the city.

Some communities have gone about addressing the problem by putting in place traffic calming measures meant to make conditions safer for motorists and non motorists alike. These can include narrowing roads, or putting in more landscaping such as medians or speed humps.

However, when such suggestions are brought before the Roswell City Council they are often met with a negative response, Najar said.

The city of Roswell doesn’t put in speed humps, but Najar said the cost to install them on just 16 percent of city streets would come to $4.8 million, and that is not counting the cost of maintenance.

Emergency vehicles speeding to a call would also not likely appreciate the placement of the humps when they have to travel to the scene of an emergency, he said.

When a complaint about speeding is made, Najar said multiple reviews of the site are conducted and when warranted electronic traffic counters are placed at the location.

Results of speed studies are often shared with Roswell police, so they can determine what time of day is the best time to have an officer at that location, he said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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