The reinstatement of a Transportation and Traffic Safety Commission and the establishment of a neighborhood traffic management program will likely be on the next Police Committee agenda following a discussion out of the Sept. 27 City Council meeting.
Councilors through a unanimous vote directed the committee, which meets on an as-needed basis with Chief of Police Ken Rueben, to take a look at the possible reinstatement of the commission, a group that’s been inactive for more than 12 years. Beyond that option, councilors also would like to hear pros and cons about creating a traffic safety committee that would either be organized under the Police Committee or as an independent group.
Councilor Teresa Nielson, who chairs the Police Committee, said Rueben and the committee have been working on the development of a new neighborhood traffic management program to address traffic safety issues on a citywide basis.
“In response to this new program, we believe it will be advantageous to reinstate a Transportation and Traffic Safety Commission as an invaluable source of advisement and counsel,” Nielsen said, adding that membership requirements would need to be evaluated and a final proposal would go to the City Council for approval.
Peggy Yoder, who sits on the Planning Commission but was speaking at the City Council meeting as a private citizen, told councilors that whatever direction they choose to take, she hopes for “quick implementation so the citizens of this town can feel, and be, safer.”
“As you know, I, and others, have expressed concern to the city manager and City Council regarding the excessive speed and increased volume through some of our streets and neighborhoods,” Yoder said. “When I approached the Police Committee in March of this year, my intention was not to restart a program that was originally designed for a major road change or include officials from Benton County and ODOT. My intention was that the city supports a formal neighborhood traffic management program which is described in the Philomath Transportation System Plan.”
Yoder was referring to the commission’s original intent related to the Highway 20 couplet, which was completed in 2008. She suggested that the neighborhood traffic management program be organized as a subcommittee of the Police Committee to avoid the need for additional staff resources.
“Traffic safety is an important issue and I have spoken with many neighbors, other citizens and our school crossing guards,” Yoder said. “These crossing guards are tasked with the safety of children, yet have stories of being physically bumped by cars and other numerous close calls.”
Although not mentioned at the meeting, Philomath recently experienced a traffic-related fatality when a 69-year-old resident was killed while attempting to cross Main Street near North Eighth, a particular location that has been brought up in the past as an area of concern.
Last year after receiving traffic safety concerns from residents on North Ninth Street, the Police Committee began the process of trying to determine how the city would respond to neighborhood complaints. City Manager Chris Workman said the discussion moved into the possibility of those issues going to a body that serves in an advisory capacity.
Workman in a recommendation to the council said reinstatement of the Transportation and Traffic Safety Commission could be beneficial to have a group that’s specifically tasked to look at traffic safety issues.
Councilor Catherine Biscoe agreed with Yoder’s suggestions and said she would like to see the pros and cons of establishing a neighborhood traffic management program that would be chaired by the Police Committee or as an independent subcommittee.
In the past discussions about a formal neighborhood traffic management program, elements that had been suggested included providing a formalized process for citizens concerned about the traffic on their neighborhood streets and to serve in a role related to land use proposals, which assess impacts to residential traffic.
The Police Committee, which is not scheduled to meet again until Oct. 26, includes Nielson along with fellow councilors Ruth Causey and David Low.
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