Austin resident self-installs speed limit signs to combat neighborhood traffic, speeding

Austin

Brentwood neighborhood resident Tracey Torres installed several speed limit signs along Stark Street following increased traffic and car speeds. (KXAN Photo/Kelsey Thompson)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Tracey Torres has called Austin home for more than 35-years. For the five most recent, she’s lived on Stark Street in North Central Austin.

Bookended by N. Lamar Boulevard and W. Koenig Lane, Torres claims traffic has rapidly increased along the roadway, with drivers cutting through the neighborhood and speeding. She said she’s seen City vehicles do it too.

Torres said she and other neighbors reached out to the City of Austin several times to request lowered speed limits signs or speed bumps be installed along the roadway. She said City officials responded saying that area was not on their list of key service areas to address at the moment.

“I’m at the point where I was just frustrated,” she said.

After several attempts to decrease the speed limit along Stark Street, Torres took matters into her own hands.

“I did put the signs up there.” Torres said. “I put them up where signs already are, where they should be essentially. They’re not put in just weird, strange places, they’re put in a logical place.”

Torres says she did it because a young toddler was hit by a car along Stark street, and several neighborhood pets have even been killed by reckless drivers.

“Some people are like oh, well, they were just cats or pets. But what’s it going to take, a human getting hit now before they do something about it?” she said. “So I want to be proactive on that.”

McCallum High School is also in the area. While there is pedestrian signage along Stark Street, and school zone notices near the high school, there are no speed limit signs visible. Torres said she fears it’s only a matter of time before a serious accident involving a student or area pedestrian happens.

“We have to wait for a tragedy to happen before they do something about it?” she said. “I would love to have some humps put on this road. That’s definitely what we need, because I don’t think a speed limit sign is going to solve the problem. People see a sign and just ignore it — it becomes like they just glaze over when they see that.”

With a background in property management, Torres said she ordered the signs through a catalog and installed them along the road in early June. So far, she said there has been a noticeable decrease in speeds along the street.

“Of course, we still have our Zoomers that go through here. But I have noticed [a decrease],” she said. “I’ve even said to my neighbors, it seems like those signs are kind of working, you know, because people are slowing down.”

Officials from Austin’s 311 department said one request for new or changed traffic signals was made in the past year, as well as one request for speed management assistance.

Austin Transportation Department officials said installing fake residential signage is illegal; however, they added they would not be pressing any charges or fining Torres.

In a statement, ATD officials said they will be heading out to Stark Street within the next two weeks to install 25 miles-per-hour speed limit signs and remove unauthorized residential signage. Austin City Council previously approved any ordinance lowering the speed limits in neighborhood streets to 25 miles-per-hour.

According to the City of Austin’s speed management map, Stark Street is currently listed as a roadway with a 30 mile-per-hour speed limit.

ATD officials added the city’s Speed Management program evaluates current needs for speed mitigation efforts throughout the City. While not eligible for current funding, officials said further improvements to Stark Street could become evaluable as more funding is acquired.

“Although Stark Street did not rank high enough to qualify for funding in our current round of projects selected for implementation, it does not reflect whether speeding is occurring or not. It does mean that based on existing speed data, crashes that have occurred, the context of the street and surrounding area, other locations in Austin were identified as having a higher need,” the statement read. “ATD is working to create a list of additional streets to implement improvements based on metrics defined in the ‘Traffic Calming Methodology’ and on the level of available funding.”

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