Letter from the City Engineer
Dear Ascension Drive neighbors,
I want to express my apologies for what has been an imperfect at best communications process around traffic safety and parking issues on SW Ascension Drive. When we first were alerted to a concern about lack of visibility driving through the curves, city engineering staff took that very seriously due to the potential for crashes. We unfortunately receive hundreds of citizen issues and complaints annually about speeding, dangerous driver behavior, parking, abandoned vehicles, issues with traffic signals, etc. Engineering staff scan through the issues and complaints and prioritize quicker response to the ones that don’t involve police response. Issues such as the visibility complaint for Ascension rise to the top because of the potential for a head on collision or even worse - a collision involving a pedestrian. This was the genesis for determining that parking in the s-curves is indeed causing a line of sight visibility problem.
However, we certainly could have done better by asking for your input and questions at the beginning. My apologies for not thinking through the quality of life impacts in advance and asking for input earlier to see if there was a solution that would at least minimize negative impacts to adjacent residents. We will do better in the future. I am hopeful that we have at least shown our willingness to listen and understand, even if it occurred later than it should have. We still have an obligation based on the risk of lack of visibility in the curves to reduce the parking to one side. But I also want to say that this situation and the clear messages you have shared about driver behavior has given momentum to staff to pursue a reduced speed limit (20 mph) for some neighborhood streets, which would include Ascension, as allowed by a 2019 act of the state legislature. This will be an enforceable speed limit once a street is signed for 20 mph.
I also want to apologize for a couple other items that unfortunately added to the frustrations. One was the miscommunication with public works operations staff that led to a staff person starting to install No Parking signs before we had completed our neighborhood conversations and input opportunities. The optics on that were horrible. But it was truly just a mistake where street operations staff had been given a heads up about an expected need for signs to be made and installed (in the near future), and, from a spirit of wanting to do a good job, started doing that work early. There was not actual direction given to put up signs at that point in time. Mistakes happen, and unfortunately at times seem to happen when you least need them. Second, after hearing from several of you that you had not seen the “Your Speed Is” signs rotating back through your neighborhood in a long time, we discovered that the signs have not been in working order for over a year. As it turns out, the ones we were using had issues with their batteries. Our staff have now acquired newer models that are both battery and solar-powered, and they are awaiting a laptop from our IT group so they can program them. Again, our apologies, and we have placed a priority on this; the signs are expected to be back in working order this summer. We have placed Ascension Drive at the top of a list of about 15 streets for rotation of the signs, so you should see those signs installed out there by the end of summer. Thank you for asking about this.
I also understand that many neighbors have had ongoing concerns about speeding and traffic volume over many years. And it was frustrating to see us work on the visibility issue when you didn’t feel that the other issues had been addressed. I do believe the city made a good faith effort to address some of this in 2017. And we have continued to monitor speed and traffic volume, and while volume has increased, speeds have not risen to the level that city staff would apply any measures beyond what was already done. What we did not do was find a way to share that information with you; so, it likely felt like silence on the part of the city. We need to find a way to do better on that.
This painful and complicated situation on Ascension has made it clear to us that we need a more clear and transparent process related to receiving, prioritizing and addressing traffic safety and parking issues. So, we have started work on that, and it will be something we discuss with the city Transportation Advisory Committee and city council over the next few months. The process will be made available on the city’s website. The process will include better use of our web-based system for receiving complaints and issues that has capability to send acknowledgements of receipt and display on a map the status of complaint response. Part of developing this process will be identifying the communications procedures for follow up with community members.
I realize that even the best of communications and engagement still may not result in measures that please everyone. Our obligation to manage and maintain public streets for the benefit and use of all the public does at times conflict with the wishes of residents on those streets. But our obligation also includes considering the impacts of changes and trying to find solutions with best outcomes and minimizing impacts. And communicating all those things. Thank you for reminding us of that.
Consultation has concluded