City Councilor Sue Finkam is “pulling out all the stops” in her attempt to get a stop sign removed at 126th Street and Auman Drive.
She introduced an ordinance last month to remove the sign because she said it’s not needed and that it slows down traffic. However, the City Council’s Utilities, Transportation and Public Safety Committee decided at its Dec. 4 meeting to table the stop sign ordinance for the time being so further study can be done on the issue.
Proponents of the sign, such as City Councilor Eric Seidensticker, say it’s a safety issue and the stop sign protects children crossing the street to go to school. He also said residents in that neighborhood rely on this stop sign to be able to safely enter or exit.
But Finkam has released a study by A & F Engineering that shows that very few people utilize this stop sign. The study counts each car that travels at this intersection during peak hours. It finds that the majority of the traffic – 96.2 percent – is east and westbound on 126th Street, with the remainder being drivers coming in and out of Auman Drive. The difference is 3,858 drivers to 148 drivers, according to the study. This supports Finkam’s conclusion that very few people turn at this stop sign.
“It’s clear, when looking at the preponderance of information we gathered, that a stop or signal of any kind is simply unwarranted,” she said.
In addition, Finkam said there is very little pedestrian traffic. A whole-day count of north-south pedestrian volume was conducted and found two pedestrians one day, 18 the next, zero on another day and eight on the final day. A whole-day count for four different days found only one day where three cyclists crossed 126th Street, the rest of the days had no cyclists crossing.
Seidensticker, whose district includes this stop sign, said he’s not convinced. He said studies aren’t always conclusive and he has seen the kids with his own eyes crossing the street there. In addition, he said he’s been told that if you remove the sign then driver speeds could increase to 45 miles an hour, which he’s concerned about.
Seidensticker said he knows the people in his district and he feels they want it to stay. He said he doesn’t understand why Finkam has made this her cause.
“Does she not have any issues to deal with in her own district?” he said.
Some have suggested that if the stop sign is removed that it should be replaced by something else, such as a traffic light or a pedestrian crossing or a roundabout.
According to Finkam’s presentation, a full stop light would cost $150,000 and a flashing pedestrian light would cost $15,000. Installing a roundabout could cost $700,000. She said it doesn’t meet the requirements for any of those and in some cases it would slow down traffic even more.
“I would hope that if any councilors are considering spending dollars on an on-demand signal or lighted crosswalk for Auman, that they instead consider using our limited funds for the 136th Street crossing by the high school, where there is a true need with over a thousand kids crossing the street each school day,” she said.
Seidensticker said he doesn’t buy the cost argument and thinks the conversation should focus on public safety.