'Pop-Up' Traffic Circle Tested To Curb Speeding

Posted at 1:34 PM, Apr 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-03 14:39:40-04

It's an exploding part of a city already on the rise: the Belmont-Hillsboro neighborhood.

Adding to the area's growth south of downtown is the fact that the popular 12 South neighborhood and university-area Belmont Boulevard are just a couple blocks apart.

"Especially as 12 South has gotten more popular, more and more people cut through from 12th to Belmont," said Belmont-Hillsboro Neighborhood Association Mobility Chair Joe Woolley.

For neighbors, the growth is a blessing and a curse. Many love the added shops, restaurants, and what the area's popularity means for their home values, but traffic concerns are a constant topic of conversation.

"It's a short-cut people take," said Philip LaForge, talking about his street, Elmwood Avenue. "And they do it at [high] speed with the cell phone with the GPS. I see it walking the dog or traversing the neighborhood all the time."

LaForge said he sees the dangerous drivers pretty consistently. Then, this weekend he saw something different: a temporary traffic circle, right on his street.

"I think it's an excellent idea, whatever we can do to calm the traffic," LaForge said while walking his dog past the "pop-up" traffic circle at Elmwood and 15th Avenue.

"It is public space and it's not just for cars," explained Nashville Civic Design Center Asst. Director Ron Yearwood. 

The week-long pilot program uses paint, plastic markers and cones to show what a permanent traffic circle could look like.

They think it will help curb the danger, and make things more pedestrian-friendly.

"When we were putting tape down people were flying by and that's with a cop here," Yearwood recalled. "But as soon as we put the paint in immediately, because it's visual you see something, you slow down."

The Civic Design Center and its partners are collecting data to determine if the traffic circle is effective. Speed lines have been in place for a week collecting the speeds of cars that came through Elmwood Avenue before in order to compare with speeds with the traffic circle in place. 

The Neighborhood Association said almost all neighbors are on-board. In fact, it's a project they've been requesting for more than a year. 

The only problem has been how to decide which street is next.

"The response has been from other neighbors throughout Belmont-Hillsboro has been 'what about my intersection, I have an intersection just like this,'" Woolley said.

Depending on the outcome of the pilot program, the temporary circle could eventually become permanent at Elmwood and 15th. Metro Public Works is in the midst of a water line project on 15th Avenue and other streets impacted could have the same opportunity to re-pave with a traffic circle in the future.