PennDOT trying to ruin Butler St.
As part of the repaving of Butler St. in Lawrenceville, PennDOT is planning to install centerline rumble strips right through the heart of the neighborhood. As is typical, PennDOT did this without consulting anyone in the neighborhood, and without any regard for the impact it would have on residents or road users other than cars. In addition to the annoying noise they will create, these rumble strips would all but guarantee that cars won’t give bikes four feet when passing.
The Lawrenceville Bike/Ped Committee has brought this to the attention of our elected officials, but we need as many people as possible to reach out and let them know that this is unacceptable.
Here’s a link to our recent email about the issue, which also has a letter template if you’d like to send something to your Councilwoman Deb Gross, Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, Rep. Dom Costa, or Sen. Wayne Fontana (or to Mayor Peduto for that matter). http://eepurl.com/btJdWv
At the very least, please sign our petition to let PennDOT know that we don’t want highway infrastructure on our neighborhood streets. http://goo.gl/forms/DIATNweHUl
When the U.S. Dept of Transportation was in town to solicit public input as part of a performance audit of PennDOT, their repeated indifference to officially obtained information was one of the concerns we reiterated. Those in the room included @erok, @swalfoort, @edmonds59 and myself. Am I remembering this correctly? Wasn’t that supposed to have made a difference in how PennDOT behaved? Well, it isn’t happening.
As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, Maryland’s guidelines (PDF: http://www.roads.maryland.gov/OOTS/GuidelinesApplRumbleStripsStripes.pdf) indicate centerline rumble strips are inappropriate for low-speed (under 45mph) roads, roads with many intersections, roads in residential areas, roads where bicyclists are expected or wanted—in short, our neighbors to the south think nearly every characteristic you could think of for the Butler Street we have or want to have makes rumble strips inappropriate for Butler Street.
Centerline rumble strips are used to keep people on the right side of high-speed rural highways. Why on earth is PennDOT trying to install them in an urban business district?
I just spent the better part of an hour trying to find the PA regulations that would cover this but I keep hitting a dead end. I believe the standards are buried within Publication 638, but every link to this seems to be broken or the link just gives you the cover page instead of the whole manual.
Does Scott (through SPC) or other BikePgh have access to this?
Publication 242 PAVEMENT POLICY MANUAL May 2015 Edition
11. As applicable, restore existing or add centerline, edge line, or shoulder rumble strips in compliance with current Department policy (refer to Publication 72M, Roadway Construction Standards and Publication 638, District Highway Safety Guidance Manual).
Publication 13M (DM-2) 2015 Edition TOC – 1 DESIGN MANUAL, PART 2 HIGHWAY DESIGN
5. For proper application of bicycle tolerable shoulder rumble strips and edge line rumble strips, see Publication 638, District Highway Safety Guidance Manual. Refer to Publication 72M, Roadway Construction Standards, RC-25M for standard rumble strips.
Here’s Publication 638, the District Highway Safety Guidance Manual.
And its table 5-1 shows that the “location criteria” for centerline rumble strips are various types of rural roads, never urban roads. So this plan of theirs is in conflict with their own safety guidance manual.
Thanks Steven, that’s really helpful.
It’s also annoying that there’s no real mention of speed in any of those guidelines. As if a road with a 55 mph limit is just like one with a 25 mph limit.
Yeah, thanks for finding that steven. Looking through pub-638 you’re right that it doesn’t seem that centerline rumble strips are ever discussed for use on urban roadways, but there isn’t any mention of explicitly prohibiting them in urban areas either. There is some talk of noise consideration, and mention of cyclists regarding side rumble strips but that’s about all that would apply to Butler Street.
There is also pub-383 (traffic calming handbook) which is mostly directed toward urban/residential streets. It doesn’t suggest center line rumble strips, but again it doesn’t explicitly prohibit them either. http://www.dot.state.pa.us/public/PubsForms/Publications/PUB%20383.pdf
I was hoping to find a clear standard like there is for the width of a shoulder for side strips. You would think a publication that is over a hundred pages would be a little clearer in what you can and can not do.
Is there anything online describing their plans to do this? I see the request for help from the Lawrenceville folks, but do we have notes or slides from wherever PennDOT announced their plans to do this?
The only notice that this was happening came from the construction schedule that PennDOT sent to Lawrenceville United a little over a week ago.
We have since confirmed (through DPW and Senator Fontana’s office) that PennDOT is actually planning to do this (pretty much all the way from 31st to 57th as far as we can tell). The fact that they didn’t even think they needed to tell anyone about it tells you pretty much everything you need to know about PennDOT.
I wrote a somewhat longer thing than the LBPC letter, and sent a version of it to Sen. Fontana, Reps. Costa and Ravenstahl, and MC Gross.
Fontana has already responded:
Thank you for contacting me regarding this matter.
I first heard about the potential for PennDOT to install centerline rumble strips along Butler Street only a few days ago. Upon speaking with community stakeholders and hearing from residents, I asked PennDOT to at the very least delay implementing this plan until the community has had the chance to weigh in and for PennDOT to consider alternatives. It is my hope that PennDOT takes a step back and allows for the community to have input.
Thanks again for your email.
There’s no explicit prohibition, but “location criteria” must mean something. What could it mean other than “here is where to install this type of device”? If I say stop signs should be installed 6-8 feet off the ground, I don’t need to also say stop signs should not be installed 1-3 feet off the ground.
^I have been hounding district 11 for almost a year to NOT put construction signs up that are blocking sidewalks -which is very explicitly mentioned in their own regulations- only to keep seeing them appear project after project. So no, I wouldn’t be at all surprised by a 1-3 foot tall stop sign. /sarcasim
Bicyclists: While bicyclists will rarely need to cross a center line rumble strip, the presence of the rumble strip may cause passenger and commercial vehicles to shy away from the center (as noted above in Section 6c). This effectively moves these vehicles closer to bicyclists who may be traveling on the outer edge of the lane. It is recommended that agencies maintain 14 feet of pavement beyond the edge of the center line rumble where vehicles and bicycles are expected to share the lane.
Unless they eliminate parking, I don’t believe the travel lane is consistently 14 foot other than up past the 62nd street bridge.
From the same document (emphasis added):
11. PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT AND OUTREACH: Transportation agencies should follow established procedures to involve all road users and stakeholders (including motorist associations, bicycle organizations, enforcement agencies and emergency responders) in developing rumble strip implementation standards and practices. This can help establish expectations for projects with varying scopes of work and expedite project development.
When an agency is introducing center line rumble strips into an area for the first time or on a large scale, they should consider public outreach to inform the general public of the safety goals, explain how the treatment works, present historical success, and explain mitigation measures.…The expense of removing rumble strips can be significantly higher than the installation cost, so careful consideration of design and application along with public involvement and outreach often provides the most efficient use of limited funds.
Accommodation and Mitigation: To position a rumble strip program for the best chance of public acceptance, agencies should:
Consider accommodation of all road users and the potential adverse side effects mentioned in this advisory,
Collaborate with stakeholders, and
Modify the design and application of rumbles to the extent the agency considers appropriate to meet the safety goal.
NATIONAL COOPERATIVE HIGHWAY RESEARCH PROGRAM -NCHRP
REPORT 641-Guidance for the Design and Application of Shoulder and Centerline Rumble Strips http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_641.pdf
Doccument page 22
A general concern with centerline rumble strips is that
motorists may not provide sufficient clearance distance between
the bicyclist and the motor vehicle when passing a bicyclist
on a section of roadway with centerline rumble strips. In
other words, the centerline rumble strips may force motorists
away from the centerline (as has been shown in several studies)
closer to bicyclists riding near the outside edge of the travel
lane, leaving less distance between a bicyclist and motor vehicle
during the actual passing maneuver. Another concern is
that when motorists encounter centerline rumble strips during
the passing maneuver, the noise generated by the rumble
strips may startle bicyclists, which could result in an undesirable
maneuver by the bicyclist.
But be aware of this: Page 5 (emphasis mine)
Originally, rumble strips were installed primarily
on rural freeways, but now transportation agencies are
installing shoulder rumble strips along divided and undivided
highways in both rural and urban areas, including along rural
and urban two-lane roads.
and page 143
The best available estimates of the safety effectiveness of
centerline rumble strips are as follows:
– Centerline rumble strips on urban two-lane roads are expected to reduce TOT target crashes by 40 percent and FI target crashes by 64 percent.
OK, full stop. Why the hell do they want these things in the first place? To discourage head-ons from unsafe passes.
OK, so the problem is unsafe passes. What’s the cause of unsafe passes? Speed, more relevantly the difference between someone’s actual speed and the speed someone wants to go.
Beyond that, the main problem I have with motorists on Butler is them wanting to go much faster than the 17 mph I’m going. Not that big a deal if we’re all going 25. But if they’re trying to go 36, then that’s the problem.
Further still, if they want to go 36, I *want* them to pass, if it’s safe to, but if it isn’t safe to, to slow the F down. And there’s the problem, people don’t want to drive 25.
Again, we’re back to, local police can’t/won’t enforce the goddamned speed limit.
I wonder if the centerline rumble strips would also encourage potholing in the winter as well.
Well, we’ll never know, because PennDOT has cancelled plans to install the rumble strips!
It’s a little scary to think that if we hadn’t noticed that one line in a PennDOT schedule, these things would have just showed up one day and we wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it. On the other hand, it’s nice to know that with some coordinated action, a neighborhood can have an influence on what PennDOT does. The cynic in me says that’s exactly why they don’t tell us their plans ahead of time.
EDIT: Nice write up of the whole saga in City Paper:
God this is maddening. Just because PennDOT decided, in this case, not to install these rumble things, does not mean that they don’t still SUCK.
Someone needs to drag this idiot “Safety Engineer” Kathryn Power out of the 1950’s. Unbelievably, PennDOT lists one of her “areas of responsibility” as “Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety Issues”. With engineers like that, who needs enemies? Fucking moron.
edmonds59, I agree. I am not celebrating anything much here. The fact that this was even a discussion in the first place is amazing. Who came up with such a stupid idea in the first place? Talk about a moron!
Ya know, this would be a good time for the L’ville bike/ped committee to reach out to whoever the lead person on this was to discuss “complete streets” solutions to whatever started all this. We might not agree with the rumble strip idea, but somewhere there was a traffic engineer trying to do something to make this corridor safer and her intentions were good – it’s just the solution we had issues with. But she had money in the construction budget to put these rumble strips in and that money isn’t being used now. So lets work with her. Lets even make her look good by her working and listening to the community. Be nice, thank her for her efforts, but direct her toward something useful.
What other safety issues on Butler Street could be tackled with that money?
Oh, you, you’re absolutely right *somebody* should take the “honey” approach. Not me, obviously. But the very first question should be, how was this design moved forward in the first place without any public review? (as my brain screams that public input would have been discarded anyway, but, trying to stick with “honey”). The more underlying question for me is, why in the HELL does PennDOT have ANY design jurisdiction over urban municipal streets in the first place?? They are several notches beyond unqualified for urban environments. I don’t know but I hope *someone* is working against that control at the state level. I have been scratching the surface of this group called Strong Towns, the principal, Chuck Marohn, is one of the few PE’s that have a clue. I would love to be able to bring him to Pittsburgh and have him give the what-for to some PennDOT engineers. OK, that’s about as much thinking about PennDOT benificently as I can handle.
Tying that thought into my last post, how do we get Butler St set up that people won’t want to drive 36 mph down it? I use that number because that’s how fast the last two drivers were going whom I exchanged words with, one on Butler, one on Perrysville, both posted 25, and I was going 20-22. No, make that three, counting the June 2013 Critical Mass ride with @buffalobuffalo and @pbeaves where someone threw a bottle at us on South Braddock because we were “going too slow”.
The streets/roads would not need to be patrolled as aggressively if they were designed to encourage people to drive 25 or less. Design issues are within PennDOT’s bailiwick.
Separate but related are enforcement issues, which are mainly the city’s, but that irritation about only the state boys being allowed to use radar does make it a Harrisburg thing.
Too many moving parts to cover in a single post.
@edmonds. All I know is that there is money sitting in a construction account that is earmarked for safety improvements on Butler that’s now not being used. It’s probably not very much money, but I’d hate to lose it.
Safety ideas that don’t cost much:
-“your speed” speed cameras
-traffic light timing (set at 25mph)
-Stop signs at 36th street, 39th street, 48th street (this would def slow traffic and discourage using Butler as a route 28 alternative)
I like your ideas. As long as PennDOT has jurisdiction, they won’t accept speed humps or raised crosswalks, I know this from experience. Traffic light timing is good. I like best the idea of more stop signs. That along with BIG painted crosswalks with signs indicating that vehicles must yield to pedestrians, along with 2-3 months of STRICT enforcement of that law, that works, then we’ll be getting somewhere.
At the end of Ross Street at PNC they have that kind of setup and it is starting to work, motorists are beginning to respect pedestrians. More of that.
Now we need to make sure that they re-apply all the crosswalks, bike lanes, and sharrows as they were before the paving project started.
Can’t stand speed humps. They punish those in economical cars and reward those in giant SUVs. Also, not a fan of riding over them on a bike.
Interesting point about potential safety money left over – we’ll have to look into that. I actually don’t think speed is a huge problem on Butler, though. Sure, there are the occasional speeders, but usually there’s a lot of traffic, and it moves pretty slowly as a result. If I had to pick one thing for Butler, it would be better crosswalks.
As for the PennDOT issue generally, I think that’s something that goes well beyond Lawrenceville. We need a statewide conversation about the fact that road building decisions get made it a vacuum that ignores the impact on actual communities. At the very least, I would love to see Pittsburgh take ownership of the PennDOT operated roads within the city (Penn, Butler, etc.) that need to be neighborhood streets instead of highways.
In the meantime, can we lay off the nasty, ad hominem attacks? Just because PennDOT is a deeply flawed institution, doesn’t make it okay to treat the people working there like garbage.
“In the meantime, can we lay off the nasty, ad hominem attacks? Just because PennDOT is a deeply flawed institution, doesn’t make it okay to treat the people working there like garbage.”
+1 – Please, let’s keep it to the issues here. Imagine if someone from PennDOT or a local politician actually looks at this forum to gather feedback and they see personal insults. The results would likely not be positive.
The problem isn’t the people, the problem is the bubble they’re in. They have metrics, an engineering process, and a lot of data. This is all good. The problem is that those models center around the service level for motor vehicles and reduction of likelihood of crashes at any given speed.
So, this ignores induced demand, compensatory negligence, the creation of a hostile atmosphere for pedestrians and cyclists, and the impact on businesses and neighborhoods.
It’s hard to combine those into a model and still call it a thing, so the default way of working is metrics first, and possibly, if there’s a huge outcry, minimally revise later.
That’s probably not something an organization headquartered so far away can really do well. Having the city take ownership of the PennDOT roads within the city limits makes perfect sense at that level. The trouble with that thrust is probably funding is tied to the decision making authority.
There’s a few neglected looking things out here: http://www.dot.state.pa.us/Internet/Bureaus/pdBikePed.nsf/BikePedHomepage?openframeset&Frame=main&src=infoMasterPlanGoals?readform Maybe the recent experience with Butler Street alerted some folks here to some live touchpoints within the organization. I’m also sure the folks in Philly go through the same thing.
What really needs to happen is that there needs to be a local and live touch-point here in terms of someone responsible for communicating what’s planned to stakeholders proactively who understands bike/ped concerns and ready to listen to them and send back bad plans for appropriate revision. Every major metro needs this. Could be done at the office on Progress St here.
Office on Progress St? Since when does PennDOT have an office on Progress St? Last I knew, PennDOT’s district 11 (Allegheny/Beaver/Lawrence) office was down across I-79 from Bridgeville…
Google maps told me so. Also known as, I don’t know a darn thing. Google maps also shows a location in the burbs down I-79.
I don’t agree with some of the suggestions, in particular adding stop signs. Just more fodder for the cyclists-always-run-stop-signs argument.
Speeding is a problem around 36th St, less so at 42nd St. I don’t have enough experience beyond the cemetery entrance at 47th to have an opinion.
Decisions are being made in some bubble or vacuum. Witness the curb hugging sharrows on the 40th St bridge, and the worse-than-nothing downhill bike lane from that to Millvale.
And they still haven’t fixed the wheel eating drain grate I reported over six years ago. (At least they hadn’t as of when I last looked for it.) Do they only design new stuff?
Alright, let me try and assemble a more politic assessment than my earlier inflammatory rantings, because if someone from PennDOT does look here for feedback, I want them to very clearly understand what I personally think of their performance, and as always per the statement on the front page of this forum, the opinions are entirely my own.
PennDOT, you are doing a horrendous job, both as individual engineers, and as an agency.
The engineer Ms. Powers statement that the rationale behind the centerline rumble strip is to make the street safer for drivers, … completely summarizes the most fundamental failure of the agency and it’s actors. PennDOT’s prime directive should be to uphold PUBLIC safety, not DRIVER safety. Indeed, paragraph 1 line item 1 of the Professional Engineers Code of Ethics is to “Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.”. Does not specify “driver” safety or the safety of those for whom you may be working, or any other subgroup, public safety.
If the mandate of the agency is to facilitate the movement of vehicles, and not to uphold public safety, that is exactly the wrong mandate. That is the mandate that has gotten us to the point where 35,000 to 40,000 people in the US die per year in motor vehicle accidents. The mandate needs to be to uphold public safety, for the WHOLE public, even if that calls for the impeding of vehicular traffic in some cases.
Allowing individuals to shelter under the umbrella of the agency or policy absolves them of the greater responsibilities of their profession. It is the responsibility of engineers to consider all factors of a design, even in traffic engineering, and to consider only the factors that you are handed by policy or precedent or whatever is lazy and irresponsible, and you should be called out on that.
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