Data Weighed, Overriden On New Stop Signs

Allan Appel PhotoThe engineering experts said the intersection did not meet national criteria—not enough traffic volume, nor reported crashes of the right kind were documented.

Not So Fast. neighbors said: What about the near-miss collisions that go unreported? And the growing volume of complaints about speeding? What about the growing number of young families in the area, with more kids running around and cars parked on the street making more dangerous sight lines; and if the other intersections nearby have four-way stop signs, why not be consistent?

Neighbors made those arguments to New Haven’s Traffic Authority —which overruled the city’s traffic engineer and voted for an all-way stop at the nexus of Hyde Street and Stuyvesant Avenue in Morris Cove.

After study by city transit czar Doug Hausladen and his team, two all-way stops won approval at Wednesday night’s regular Traffic Authority meeting at police headquarters: The one at Hyde and Stuyvesant, the other at Clifton and Russell streets in Fair Haven Heights.

But only one was recommended based on traffic science.

Heights Distance

That was the intersection at Clifton and Russell. There neighbors have complained about t-bone crashes — only Russell has stop signs that people roll through and get hit by speeders on Clifton — and vehicular chaos, particularly around school bus pick-up and drop off times.

Hausladen recommended a four-way-stop based not on crash data, but, as Traffic Operations Engineer Bruce Fischer told the commissioners, “The stopping sight distance is only 130 feet”— the distance from the crest of the hill coming west on Clifton. “And maybe that’s one of the reasons we’re experiencing crashes.”

Their report to the commissioners noted that according to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (M.U.T.C.D.), the bible for such determinations, “... a car traveling westbound at 25 MPH needs 150 feet to stop at Russell Street,” which is insufficient, and thus meets the criteria for a four-way-stop.

The news was music to the ears of local folks like Kristy Manning, who lives with her family at that corner, and her dad Bill Meriko, who grew up on the street.

“That’s been a dangerous corner since I was a kid,” Meriko said, who said he welcomes having a four-way-stop there after 60 years.

Cove Override

The other intersection on the agenda for a four-way stop, Hyde and Stuyvesant, also received crash data research and speed readings and volume count results that didn’t rise to a level warranting more stop signs.

“Our findings on Stuyvesant Avenue found no reported crash history in 2015 or 2016. The volume counts along the roadway were at less than an average of twenty vehicles per hour. The 85th percentile speed was less than 25 MP,” reads the staff report, and therefore approval was not recommended.

Enter Alder Sal DeCola whose 18th Ward constituents have been advocating for at least three years that the two stop signs on Hyde be augmented with two on Stuyvesant.

Traffic Commissioner Evelise Ribeiro asked to hear the non-professional, residents’ side of the story.

“For over 40 years people living there have been saying when you’re coming up from Burr, it’s a blind spot,” DeCola relayed.

“We have [more] young children in the neighborhood. Sixteen thousand cars a week travel on Burr Street, “the road paralleling the Tweed runway and leading out of the airport. “More cars are parking on the street. Two young children live on the corner [of Hyde and Stuyvesant]. I want to be proactive,” DeCola said. All the other intersections between Burr and Townsend have four-way stops, he said. So why not the one in question?

“We didn’t find any engineering standards to support” the four-way stop, replied Hausladen.

Interim Police Chief Anthony Campbell added that complaints about motor vehicle issues—- speeding and parking—have doubled and perhaps tripled in the last year from that specific area.

And DeCola added that the crash data doesn’t reflect near misses, none of which get reported, but which are nevertheless experienced by the residents.
I’m confused,” Ribeiro said.

“I’m bound by these [M.U.T.C.D.] codes and warrants,” Hausladen replied.

We’re always concerned about the residents, Ribeiro countered.

Commission Chair Anthony Dawson told Hausladen, “We thank you for you honesty, but we can always override you.”

“You’re not recommending it, but it sounds like you’re not opposing,” added Commissioner Donald Walker.

In the end, the Traffic Authority voted in fact to override, and Hyde and Stuyvesant was on its way to get two more stop signs.

“It’s not unusual for the Traffic Authority to overrule the professional engineering judgment,” said Fischer, who has 31 years on the job.

“We don’t have a horse in the race,” Hausladen said, noting that “sometimes my numbers lose the human element.”

“When you put traffic calming up, you potentially push traffic to another street. The first thing they ask for] is what they know. They know stop signs and lights,” Hausladen explained.

Residents know that a stop sign, as opposed to a new light, is affordable.

And that’s a problem/ “Engineers say placing too many stop signs ultimately lowers the value of all stop signs,” added Fischer. “The M.U.T.C.D says stop signs are not to be used for speed control.”

Hausladen discussed a bunch of looming requests from folks in the area bounded by Ella Grasso Boulevard and Edgewood, West Park and Whalley avenues where he intends to recommend more stop signs — or not recommend depending on the outcome of tests — at next month’s meeting.

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posted by: Anderson Scooper on February 16, 2017  5:27pm

When the book says, “Stop signs should not be used for speed control”, aren’t they talking about normal towns where police actually enforce the speed limits?

And what’s the matter with Hamden, where they definitely use stop signs for speed control? Is there reason to their unscientific madness?

posted by: 1644 on February 17, 2017  12:34pm

The US uses far too many stop signs, which leads drivers not to take them seriously.  In contrast, the UK uses a lot of yield signs, where a “rolling stop” is sufficient due to good sight lines.  For speed control, “sleeping policemen”, i.e., speed bumps or tables are better at slowing people.  One can blow through a stop sign, but not over a speed bump.