ARLINGTON -- Norwood Lane is no longer the drag strip it once was, but motorists are still driving too quickly to navigate obstacles designed to slow them down, residents and city officials said.
Earlier this year, Arlington completed a $75,000 traffic-calming project on the residential street west of Fielder Road. After years of complaints by Norwood residents about speeders crashing into their mailboxes and trees or making it difficult to pull in and out of their own driveways, the city transformed the four-lane straight street into a winding road with concrete bump outs and a traffic circle designed to reduce speeds.
So far, city officials said they are aware of at least three motorists colliding with the concrete curbs that jut into the lanes but have heard about no collisions in the traffic circle at Norwood Lane and Westview Terrace. It is the first traffic circle in a residential area in Arlington.
Resident Bill Loflin said the bump outs have made the street difficult to navigate and that motorists are still speeding along the straight sections of the street. He recently helped a young female motorist who blew out a tire after striking a concrete bump out near the home late one night.
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"Speed bumps would have made more sense. People would have known what to do with speed bumps," Bill Loflin said.
Signs along the street advise motorists to drive 25 mph and to yield to other cars in the traffic circle. Despite the numerous signs, resident Daniel Loflin said motorists are still struggling with the traffic circle.
"People are honking all the time. People aren't sure who's supposed to stop," Daniel Loflin said.
Before the improvements were installed, a traffic study found that average speeds were 50.5 mph on the 35 mph street, and some cars were traveling as much as 70 mph, faster even than adjacent Abram Street, public works officials have said. Now, the average speed has fallen to the upper 30s, said Keith Melton, Public Works and Transportation director.
"People are being hardheaded right now. They can't drive as fast as they could," said, adding it would be challenging for motorists to stay in their own lane if they were traveling more than 35 miles per hour.
Although Melton said there's "no doubt cars are driving slower," the transportation department has had difficulty gathering speed data because someone has repeatedly tampered with the city's equipment. Melton said someone has pulled up the cable that is stretched across the street to collect speed data at least three times this year.
"We would like to have true, accurate data to compare speeds before and after," said Melton, who said speed studies will continue despite the tampering.
City Councilwoman Lana Wolff, who lives on Norwood, said at least two motorists have struck the concrete bump out near her home.
One motorist, who later admitted to being on his cellphone when he struck the curb, left his truck's bumper and license plate behind.
"We were home and we heard it. It sounded like someone emptying a big Dumpster," Wolff said about the noise of the collision.
Though some motorists dislike the changes, Wolff said the city worked with the neighborhood to design the project. Speed bumps were ruled out because of safety concerns, and a proposal to tear out the four-lane road and rebuild a narrower street was too costly, officials have said.
Wolff said the improvements could be implemented in other neighborhoods with speeding problems. The city has to have at least 70 percent of residents in the neighborhood and 100 percent of the affected property owners sign off on such projects, the same as with neighborhoods requesting new sidewalks or speed bumps.
"If they can agree collectively there is an issue that needs to be resolved, they have the right to go to that department and ask for assistance," said Wolff, adding that the city recently added concrete bump outs to nearby West Second Street to slow speeders, she said.
The city plans to install traffic roundabouts where Harris Road and Russell Road intersect with Calender Road in southwest Arlington. The features are part of a $9.5 million bond funded project to improve safety and mobility near T.A. Howard Middle School, Cross Timbers Intermediate School and Carol Holt Elementary, said Keith Brooks, project engineer. That project, still in design, isn't scheduled to begin until the summer of 2014, Brooks said.
Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578