Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify the Austin Transportation Department’s strategy for speed reduction in the neighborhood.

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Some residents in a northwest Austin neighborhood are banding together to stop the Austin Transportation Department from putting in several speed cushions on a busy street. 

The neighborhood is in a part of Austin that is at an elevated risk for wildfires, and Greystone Drive, where ATD is adding the cushions, could be used as an evacuation route for some during a natural disaster event, neighbors told KXAN. To stall the project, nearly 650 neighbors from around 550 separate homes signed a petition. 

“What are you trying to do here? You know, if the goal is to reduce accidents, you can do that with neighborhood awareness,” Michelle Estrada, a resident in the neighborhood, said. “For the highest [fire] risk portion of the neighborhood, you would have to go through five speed bumps,” she continued. 

Where ATD was originally planning to place the 15 speed cushions on Greystone Drive (KXAN photo)

But while Estrada found many residents that agreed with her petition, others living on Greystone Drive think the speed cushions are a necessary addition to the neighborhood.

Jean Miller has lived on Greystone for more than two decades. She said that the speed at which some vehicles drive down her road makes her and some of her neighbors feel unsafe. Miller said that during her time living on Greystone, a pet was killed by a speeding vehicle. And in the last year, two of her neighbors lost pets due to the same cause, she said.

“The comments and perspective of Ms. Estrada do not reflect our views,” Miller wrote in a statement to KXAN. “While some drivers do observe the speed limit, many do not. The results of the speeding are predictable and frightening.”

We welcome the plan from Austin Mobility, and believe that this plan is needed to slow cars down and to make the street safer for pedestrians, cyclists, residents, pets, and wildlife–as well as other drivers,” she said.

Estrada said many neighbors were unaware of ATDs plans until several concerned residents started the petition to slow down ATD. Through the campaign, ATD agreed to reduce the number of speed cushions from 15 to nine, only putting them in parts of the road with no sidewalks. 

“The City circled back with all feedback and came up with an updated proposed speed management plan. This updated plan aims to address feedback while still addressing the egregious speeds on Greystone Drive,” staff wrote in a fact sheet for the residents.

ATD said its plan in the northwest Austin neighborhood is to reduce speeds on Greystone Drive to decrease the likelihood of injury or fatal crashes. The effort supports the City of Austin Vision Zero plan, per the fact sheet, which aims to reduce people hurt or killed in crashes to zero with street improvements, policy changes, enforcement and education.

Estrada did some digging. She said that while she found there were crashes on the road, there have been no fatalities. “So if [reducing traffic fatalities] is their goal, they’ve already accomplished it,” she said. 

Though there have been no fatalities on the street, Anna Martin, the Assistant Director of the City of Austin Transportation and Public Works Department, said that Greystone Drive ranked high on a list of residential roads that pose safety concerns.

“We collect speed data — that is how fast people are going, how many people are going ten miles an hour or more over the speed limit. And we also look at the context of the street. [We ask], ‘Are there homes facing the street? Are there sidewalks? Have there been crashes in the area?’ And with all that information we put together a ranking system,” Martin said. “Greystone actually ranked 11th out of 375 streets that we looked at.”

Still, Estrada thinks instead of adding speed cushions, ATD could trust that the community can adjust its driving to make it safer through a campaign, which would quell concerns about the cushions posing a threat in a fire event.

Martin said that her organization still plans to go through with adding the nine speed cushions, but she hopes the adjusted ATP plan feels more balanced to community members while addressing safety concerns. She also did not share Estrada’s worry that speed cushions will get in the way during an emergency situation.

“In the event of an emergency, when we’re trying to evacuate all residents from an area, they’ll be doing so at the speed limit or below,” Martin said. “Trying to move quickly down the residential street in an emergency is pretty likely to create another emergency,” she continued.

Editor’s note: The concept Austin Transportation and Public Works is considering for Gresystone Drive is a selection of speed cushions, not speed bumps.