Public safety improvements and transportation planning lead the city policy and projects news for March. Here are highlights for the month:
Public Safety Communications System I’m very pleased to report that the long-awaited major upgrade of our city/county Public Safety Communications System is now up and running. For years, our public safety personnel—police and firefighters—reported radio dead spots where their communications wouldn’t work. That and other system limitations resulted in the decision to create a new and improved radio communications system with complete area coverage and enhanced capacities. With support from the 2000 voter-approved bond issue, the towers and equipment were built and installed, and the new system was formally dedicated March 1. Our public safety officers, and our community, are safer as a result.
Going to the mat for traffic safety Improved traffic safety has continued to be a major priority for the Southwest Ward as well as other parts of our city. As of this month, the WSPD Traffic Enforcement Unit has a new tool to help pursue that goal. Portable traffic analyzers, or "speedmats", collect traffic data including speed and volume of traffic. With the appearance of freshly-patched potholes, the "speedmats" don’t influence driver behavior in the way that the radar-using "smart trailers" tend to do. That means the WSPD gets a more accurate picture of actual normal conditions at a studied location—helping determine where and when the worst problems are happening. Traffic enforcement patrols can be shifted in response. The WSPD recently bought two of the units (at $1,175 each), and the WSPD and city Transportation Department together hope to have about 20 by the end of next year. The Transportation Department can also use the data to help determine where street improvements and "traffic calming" strategies are most needed.
Transportation projects update
You may have heard that money shortages in the state Highway Trust Fund are forcing adjustments and delays in transportation projects around the state. Here’s a look at how that situation is affecting major projects of particular interest to the Southwest Ward:
: State Dept. of Transportation (DOT) representatives recently announced that planned construction of the western leg of the Northern Beltway would be pushed back, probably beyond 2012. Instead, the eastern leg of the Northern Beltway (between U.S. 52 and Business 40 east) would be accelerated to begin construction first, starting in 2009. DOT officials (including our regional representatives) believe that the eastern leg is more urgent, in part to take pressure off dangerously overburdened U.S. 52.
Hanes Mall Boulevard
: In good news for those stressed by the daily traffic backups where Hanes Mall Boulevard narrows to pass over I-40, DOT says that the widening project there is not among those being delayed by budget woes. The contract for that project is scheduled to be let in July of this year.
Public input has been put together into a draft Winston-Salem Urban Area Bicycle Plan. The Final Draft will be rolled out on April 14, starting with a 9 a.m. presentation in the City Hall chamber, followed by public displays from noon to 3 p.m., and 5 to 8 p.m., at Hanes Mall (upper level outside Sears). The plan will address items like bicycle lanes, bicycle routes, and bicycle parking amenities around Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. Those events will begin a final public comment period to conclude on May 16. After that, the plan will be taken to the Planning Board, County Commission, City Council, and Transportation Advisory Committee for approval. Your comments are still timely now.
Winston-Salem has had a residential curbside recycling program since 1991 (one of the first large cities in the state to do so). Several commodities, and multi-family units, have been added to the collections since that time. More recently, the markets for recycled materials have shifted sharply. In response, the city is studying how our recycling program needs to adapt. (For example, the present detailed—some might say nitpicking—requirements for cardboard pickup have seriously limited participation in that effort.) On March 28, the City Council approved a recommended short-term (14-months) extension in the recycling collection contract with Waste Management in order to give time for the alternatives study to be completed. I’ll keep you updated as that study progresses.
Constituent service notes
Streams and stormwater: The city can’t solve every flooding problem, but it can help with some. Recently, a constituent reported that debris had piled up to partially block a box culvert carrying a stream under Cherokee Lane. I reported the problem to the Streets Division, which cleared out the debris. Around the same time, another constituent reported that a stormwater drainage pipe under Brandywine Road is creating flooding problems in adjacent yards. Streets staff are looking into what can be done to help there.
Trash citations: Is trash piling up in a yard or vacant lot near you? The Code Enforcement office of the Housing and Neighborhood Services Department, 727-8486, should be able to help. Constituents recently reported problems on Madison Avenue and Tredwell Drive. I helped to pass the concerns along. Inspectors cited the violators and will follow through to see that cleanup takes place.
That’s the news for March—see you in April. As always, comments and questions are welcome to me at 722-1674 or