Should Speed Humps Stay or Go in Clifton?

Should Speed Humps Stay or Go in Clifton?

Speed humps, land and street repairs were the hot topics at the last Clifton Town Council meeting. And wheels were set in motion to find a solution to the town's continuing traffic problem.

The Aug. 2 meeting began with two public hearings involving budget amendments. One involved moving $85,000 from the town's savings account to its operating account so Clifton could purchase its portion of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust property.

WHEN THIS organization purchased nearly 10 acres next to the town's floodplain last year to preserve it as open space, Clifton didn't have the money to help buy it. But it's now able to buy a 66-percent interest in it from the Conservation Trust because it'll be reimbursed by the federal government.

The other public hearing dealt with transferring $5,000 from the savings to the operating account so street repairs on Ford Lane could be made. The work entails repairing the asphalt there and fixing a place where water forms a pond between the railroad tracks and the Clifton Store.

During its regular meeting, the Town Council approved both of the monetary shifts, but only gave the go-ahead for the land purchase. The street repairs will be considered at a later date.

Two Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) engineers, Doug Miller and Bill Parman, also attended the meeting. They listened to council members and residents discuss the problem of all the traffic on Clifton's Main Street, and they'll return next month with a list of both short- and long-term solutions.

Clifton Mayor Jim Chesley said things are especially bad at the intersection of Main Street and Chapel Road. "Almost two years ago, we put in a speed hump to reduce the speeding problem there," he said. "And a VDOT study showed it has, indeed, lowered people's speeds."

However, he continued, "Two homeowners who live adjacent to this hump said they're getting structural damage to their houses — cracked foundations and walls — when multi-axle trucks pass over this hump. And they complained about both the vibration and the noise."

SO CLIFTON had VDOT do a two-day, seismic study, about six months ago, to determine whether the vibration levels from the trucks could have been the cause of these problems. And the result?

"VDOT said, 'No, the vibrations weren't strong enough to cause the structural damage,'" said Chesley. "But the people still complained so, as good stewards, the town spent about $2,000 of its own money to have an independent assessment done."

This one was accomplished three months ago and was performed over a two-week period, but the results were the same as the earlier study. "But the town is still sympathetic to these residents," said Chesley. "So we asked VDOT, in light of these two studies, to look at — if we took out the hump — what could we put there in its place?"

He said the town then honed in on the intersection of Chapel and Main streets and Chapel Road — which is 30 feet from the hump. And when the VDOT engineers return next month, they'll discuss the possibility of alternatives, including a multi-way stop or a stoplight.

Also on the table are chokers — concrete or asphalt half-circles at the corners of these streets, to narrow the streets and make people drive slower — or a small roundabout.

A roundabout is a raised circle in the middle of a triangular island. Every vehicle would turn right to enter the circle, and all the traffic within it would travel counter clockwise. Said Chesley: "I like this one best of all because it's right in the middle of the street."

But, he advised, all these ideas would just be short-term solutions. He said the long-term solution would be to return to an idea from eight to 10 years ago — a bypass of the town, altogether.

"On Route 29 west from Gainesville to Danville, every small town with 1,000 people or so has a bypass, except Charlottesville and Lynchburg — and Lynchburg is building one now," said Chesley. "And the businesses in these towns are thriving."

INSTEAD OF being clogged with cut-through traffic, he said, only those people who want to visit those towns go there. Their inner streets were fixed up and revitalized and, he said, "They have beautiful street scenes and vibrant stores."

If Clifton were to have a bypass, said Chesley, "Initially, people would scream that it's hurting their business — and it might, at first. But in the long run, it would be better for all of us. Right now, Clifton is jammed with traffic, and it's not a walking community, as it should be. The whole town is in the National Register of Historic Places, and we ought to do something to protect it."