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CITY TALK: Don’t expect progress on calming Whitaker, Drayton

As many of you know from reading previous coverage in this newspaper, Kevin Klinkenberg of the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority gave a presentation about traffic calming on Drayton and Whitaker streets at the most recent workshop session of Savannah City Council.

Mike Weiner from the city’s traffic engineering department also appeared at the meeting and roundly dismissed Klinkenberg’s plan, which called for a pilot project to test the conversion of Drayton and Whitaker to one vehicular lane, a parking lane and a protected bike lane.

Alderman Bill Durrence, who has routinely exhibited an excellent grasp of the unique features of Savannah’s adaptable grid system, was the only council member who seemed to support Klinkenberg’s proposal.

I would have been surprised if council had embraced Klinkenberg’s proposal, but I was especially struck by the thrust of Weiner’s counter-proposal.

For starters, Weiner effectively dismissed the notion that there was any rational need for traffic calming on Drayton and Whitaker streets.

According to Klinkenberg, vehicular crashes on Drayton Street increased 72 percent between 2011 and 2016. Whitaker Street had a 145 percent increase in crashes over that span. To those of us who routinely witness dangerous driving on those streets, the numbers are no surprise.

Data presented during the session suggested that 1,000 cars per day are exceeding the speed limit by five or more miles per hour on Drayton near Forsyth Park. I can guarantee that drivers are going even faster on some of the desolate stretches of Drayton and Whitaker south of Anderson Street.

Despite the increase in crashes and the prevalence of speeding, Weiner dismissed the need for any infrastructure changes to the streets, but he did recommend a “public awareness campaign” aimed at bicyclists and pedestrians.

Huh? We have cars going too fast on streets that many pedestrians fear and that very few bicyclists use, but we need a public awareness campaign aimed at bicyclists and pedestrians?

Weiner did, however, make recommendations to address the “cyclist and pedestrian perception of a safety hazard” on Drayton and Whitaker streets.

Mayor Eddie Deloach, clearly impatient with the lengthy workshop, moved the meeting along before final proposals were detailed, but I gathered that we could soon see signalized pedestrian crossings at known trouble spots, like the Drayton intersections with Park Avenue, Gwinnett Street and Hall Street. That would be an important step, assuming those crossings are adequately marked.

Weiner also recommended that Forsyth Park’s perimeter path be enhanced to accommodate bicycles in addition to pedestrians. The proposal seems like an absolute nonstarter because the heavily used sidewalk is flanked by large trees that would be removed or damaged by any such plan.

If members of City Council and City Manager Rob Hernandaz actually believe that the problems on Drayton and Whitaker are simply a matter of “perception,” I hope they’ll spend some time walking along those streets beginning at Victory Drive.

City Talk appears every Sunday and Tuesday. Bill Dawers can be reached via billdawers@comcast.net. Send mail to 10 E. 32nd St., Savannah, GA 31401.

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