BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A glitch in the way of progress is sometimes called a speed bump.
A Fort Madison neighborhood is experiencing a rift as a result of two 2.5 inch speed bumps across the road on Old Denmark Hill.
According to city officials, the speed bumps were put in to slow traffic that is using the roadway as an alternative to the 15th Street Rodeo Hill closure.
We had seven property owners complaining about speed on that road,” said city Public Works Director Larry Driscoll.
“Out of the seven, one was very vocal when we diverted traffic and it showed up on Old Denmark Hill. 15th Street was getting 10,000 to 11,000 vehicles per day. Denmark Hill is now getting about 7,000 per day. People weren’t driving the speed limit, I don’t care what anyone says.”
“There’s a corner on top. That’s a sharp corner. There’s a yellow recommended speed sign on the top of the hill for 15 mph but the speed limit is 25 mph.”
Fort Madison Police Chief Tim Sittig was of the same mindset as Driscoll and said the city is seeing good results from the measure, but said, more importantly, its functionality is 24/7.
“We cannot always have a police presence there and people were speeding,” Sittig said. “Something needed to be done with that. We have had some accidents at the bottom of that hill.”
Jim Yasenchock, who lives in the neighborhood, said the speed bumps not only have created a lot of noise, but also can divert water onto properties near the bumps.
“Larry Driscoll told me that the reason he had to do this is because the police weren’t doing their job. I really don’t care about that. I want the cops to keep the gangs and the drugs out. They are just attacking the police.”
“When they first put these out there, I stood out here with a sign like an idiot, that said we didn’t have anything to do with it, it was the person next to us.”
Yasenchock said one person complained and wanted the city to do something and when they brought the speed bumps that person wouldn’t let the devices be put in front of their house due to the noise it created.
“So they put them in front of mine?” Yasenchock asked. “I saw them putting them in and I came out and said, ‘What’s going on?’.”
He said the city did move the bumps up from his house and then added another toward the bottom of the hill.
“We’re getting fabulous results,” Driscoll said. “Traffic has slowed tremendously. Those are speed bumps with a 2.5” rise and they are rated for 15-20 mph. They’ll definitely slow you down.
One resident, who is in support of the measures but would only comment if not identified, said if people would travel the speed limit there wouldn’t be an issue.
“The bumps are built for 25 mph and they won’t hurt your car,” the resident said. “Also the people that live on the street have to go over the bumps, too.”
But the same resident said traffic has increased about ten-fold with the Rodeo Hill closure and motorists are squealing their tires and honking their horns in frustration of having the bumps in place.
“It’s really bad,” the resident said. “They will lay on their tires and honk their horns. I even had one person yell at me, ‘Nice speed bumps!’.”
“The neighbor next door just raised holy hell and was telling drivers it wasn’t me and he actually made it worse. They were going to initially put in three but I told them that wasn’t necessary because of the curve. (The drivers) are getting smart, they lay on the gas between the two bumps.”
Driscoll said the city will be bringing in smaller “speed humps” next week.
“Next week were gonna put in a speed hump and those have a 1.5″ rise. You watch, as soon as we put those in you’ll see an increase in speed. These are a temporary thing. It’s a good thing. We live in a society that feels that speed is a choice. Safety doesn’t apply until something bad happens. It’s impossible for police to be there 24/7,” he said.
“Where I put those, they are not in front of anyone’s house. We originally had it too close to one person’s house and we relocated them in front of him about 125 feet. They are not next to houses. I don’t hear a lot of noise from them. I’d rather take them out and put a police car up there, but I’ve got more compliments from people thanking us. It’s more positive than negative.”
The bumps cost the city a couple hundred dollars each and Driscoll said the city uses them in alleys and they get beat up pretty quickly. He said the devices won’t be in place longer than three months. The Rodeo Hill project is set to be 75% complete by mid-July.