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Bump! Bump! Slow down or you'll feel it

Island County Public Works employees use bolts to install a moveable crosswalk and speed bump, called a speed table, near the Maple Ridge senior housing development in Freeland. The device is designed to slow traffic for pedestrian safety. - Gayle Saran
Island County Public Works employees use bolts to install a moveable crosswalk and speed bump, called a speed table, near the Maple Ridge senior housing development in Freeland. The device is designed to slow traffic for pedestrian safety.
— image credit: Gayle Saran

It doesn't take a cop anymore to slow traffic in Freeland.

Last week, Island County Public works installed the newest technology in speed control on Main Street at the east end of Freeland. It is literally a bump in the road.

Engineers call it a "speed table" and a "traffic calming" device that's intended to slow traffic in an area known for speeding problems.

Made of recycled tires, the speed table is comfortable to drive over at speeds up to 25 mph. Over that, said Island County traffic engineer Joseph Araucto, a motorist might think he or she is hitting a speed bump.

"It is installed bolted to the road, and designed to handle the speed limit of 25 miles per hour as designated in this location," Araucto said. "Also, because it is moveable, it allows us to test areas for crosswalks."

The $12,000 device, paid for by Island County Public Works, provides both traffic control and a pedestrian walkway. It is essentially a pair of rubber ramps across both lanes of the road with a raised crosswalk between the two ramps. The ramps come up from half-an-inch off the road to about 4 inches at crosswalk level.

It's not a perfect safety solution for pedestrians, but it should help, Araucto said.

"We don't want to see pedestrians develop a false sense of security, but we have located it in an area where there is great visibility both ways," he said.

Maple Ridge resident Vi Burkhardt agrees that a crosswalk isn't a guarantee of safe crossing.

"I will still be very cautious and assume motorists won't see me or be aware of the crosswalk," she said. "I'll wait until there isn't any traffic coming before I cross."

At the moment, drivers don't get much warning that the speed table is there. Orange "bump" signs are on each side of the device, but no warning stripes have been painted on the road.

The temporary signs will be replaced with bright green crosswalk signs, like those used in Oak Harbor, and white striping on the road just in front of the speed table.

Araucto said speed tables are an emerging technology used in Europe and locally in Bellevue and Portland.

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