Belmont's Speeding

Typically, when we think of Belmont’s traffic problems, we think of congestion, particularly on the city’s main roads – South Point, Wilkinson Blvd, etc. However, there’s another side to this problem that may not seem immediately obvious – speeding.

What happens is that once the main roads start to back up (especially at rush hour), people start looking for alternate routes, which usually involves frustrated commuters cutting through adjoining neighborhoods (and often at high rates of speed). Julia Avenue is one street that recently received some attention around this, but I’ve met with a lot of concerned residents who have told me that this is a problem in a lot of neighborhoods throughout the city.

And it’s really a safety issue. In a lot of the areas where this is a problem, the speed limit is only 35 mph (and sometimes only 20 mph), which is generally what you want in a relatively quiet residential area where people are out walking, kids are playing in the street, etc. However, if a car comes through that area at even 45 or 50 mph, that creates some significant risks for people who may just be out enjoying their neighborhoods.

As Belmont’s traffic gets worse, I would expect that problems like this will only continue to increase. But this is all the more reason why we need to be fully considering the impacts of development on our community before we green-light them. We need to be recognizing not only the initial impacts to congestion on our main thoroughfares, but also the secondary impacts on the neighborhoods that feed into them. One development doesn’t just impact one neighborhood, it ripples throughout the entire city.

sad puppy

For everyone who has to commute to work everyday, we find ourselves leaving ever earlier in the morning just to get to work on time while getting home ever later in the evening. The very real cost of this increasingly soul-crushing commute – lost family time, lost productivity, and lost sanity – often isn’t fully appreciated by those signing off on the development of massive new apartment complexes.

While Council could do more to avoid making this problem worse (such as by adhering to existing zoning regulations), how do you think we can make this situation better? Something I have noticed trudging up and down Wilkinson Blvd every day is the relatively quick cycle times of the traffic lights (as in traffic barely starts moving before the light flips back to red again) and a lack of real synchronization between the traffic lights strung throughout the corridor. I have heard some people talk about installing traffic circles at some intersections – There’s obviously a cost to build them as well as a learning curve for drivers learning how to use them (since they aren’t very common in our area). Mass transit is another option – The light rail is allegedly on its way, but there is only one bus that runs between Belmont and Charlotte (and on a very limited schedule at that).

What are the chokepoints in your commute? What are some solutions you’d like to see? Would you ride a bus? Are you excited for (or maybe dreading) the arrival of the light rail? Let me know in the comments below!