City to buy radar signs for schools

The five portable units will be used to monitor areas of high traffic volume.
Sunday, September 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:38 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Columbia Public Works is planning to purchase and install radar signs near four city schools with the goal of lowering average speeds in school zones.

The signs, called speed display boards, are non-recording radar units. The City Council must approve the expense as part of its 2005 budget. A vote is expected this week.

Public Works also wants to buy five portable radar units to monitor speeding at high traffic areas, said City Traffic Engineer Richard Stone. The signs would be installed in highly visible and frequently traveled locations.

Grant Elementary School on East Broadway has been chosen to receive two signs, one facing east and the other facing west-bound traffic. Stone said the city is unsure of other locations for the signs.

Diane Reinhardt, a civil engineer with the Columbia Public Works Department, said that safety is a concern at all of the schools, but Grant was a top priority because it is an elementary school on a major arterial and a high volume street and also because of the school’s close proximity to the road.

The PTA and concerned parents at Grant sponsored a safety awareness campaign to remind drivers that they are in a school zone.

“The Grant safety committee was fun to work with, and the principal was awesome,” Reinhardt said.

Stone described the speeding around schools as “not immediately dangerous,” and felt that most people were sticking to speeds of about 30 mph but not adhering to the 20-mph school zone limit.

Radar signs have been used successfully in other cities to reduce average speeds by 3 to 7 mph, said Stone.

Once the signs are in place the Public Works Department will conduct studies of the signs effectiveness. It will present the studies to the City Council, as the council requires.

At a City Council work session earlier this month Sixth Ward Councilmember Brian Ash suggested that the department seek corporate sponsorship for the signs. “It’s a cliché win-win situation,” Ash said Tuesday. Ash said he feels that corporate sponsorship would benefit the city by freeing funds for other projects while improving a company’s image.

A similar sign was donated to Shepard Boulevard Elementary by its partner in education, 3M, and installed by Public Works. Stone said several parents have called his office to praise the installation of that sign.

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