road stock

MILTON, Ga. — Several Milton officials say residents reach out to them with traffic concerns, perhaps more than any other issue.

With those calls in mind, the city is creating a “local road safety plan” with the hopes it can help mitigate and address some of those concerns. Police Chief Rich Austin and Transportation Engineer Sara Leaders discussed drafting the plan with the Milton City Council at its Nov. 9 work session.

Austin said the city already uses a system for road safety that includes engineering elements, law enforcement and an educational component for drivers and other road users.

“We have dealt with a lot of our traffic issues quite successfully utilizing this method, but what we are finding is our citizens are still having concerns with traffic in our city,” he said.

An added component that will be included in the safety plan is extensive evaluation of problem spots, speeds and volumes.

The city will use that information, comments from residents through a planned survey and other data before hiring a consultant to draw up an action plan to improve safety on Milton’s roads.

Leaders said there are ways to engineer roads to improve safety, including narrower lanes to keep speeds down, that could be warranted based on data from the plan. The information could also outline additional areas where police patrols could be necessary.

Austin said Milton Police already have systems in place to collect speeds and volume on roads after the city receives a traffic complaint to get better idea of whether officers should patrol those roads.

All the efforts will be aimed at creating safe, efficient and calm traffic flow, Austin said.

“The world calmly is really important,” councilwoman Laura Bentley said. “This community has transformed from a rural farming community to a very desirable place to live, and we have cities around us. Some of our most valued viewsheds and property owners are on open roads, so for them to calmy get their mail and not feel like they’re threatened, that’s important to us, I think. That’s what we’re trying to keep here in Milton.”

A question Austin said he often fields is why the city doesn’t just lower speed limits to help improve road safety. The answer isn’t as easy as just switching out a sign.

In order to enforce speed limits using radar systems, the city must go through the Georgia Department of Transportation and receive a permit from the state’s Department of Public Safety. If a speed limit changes, the permitting process must be done again, which can take up to eight months, Austin said.

There is also a state law that requires a 10-mph leeway when using radar to detect speeds.

“So, we can’t even start enforcement until the speeds go over 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit,” Austin said.

Leaders said limits are generally set by the “85th percentile,” the speed 85 percent of drivers do not exceed.

“That method is based on the assumption that drivers are choosing reasonable speeds, that they’re balancing safety and efficiency of the roadway system, which isn’t always the case with some of the other conditions or context of the roads,” she said.

Under the city’s road safety plan, other considerations would come into play.

Another major component, Austin said, is ensuring residents know when improvements have been made, otherwise fear may keep people from using certain roads, cycling or other uses on thoroughfares.

Austin showed data that total crashes, single-car crashes and personal injury crashes are all down over 30 percent this year, but he said those numbers are “a bit artificial” because of a drop in volume due to COVID-19.

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