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Macho macho $400k San Mateo fire trucks can't hack speed bumps

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  • 8/20 SMCo. Times
    Published Saturday, August 20, 2005, in the San Mateo County Times Speed humps: life saver or hazard? By Tara Ramroop SAN MATEO -- Depending on whom you talk
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 22, 2005
      Published Saturday, August 20, 2005, in the San Mateo County Times

      Speed humps: life saver or hazard?

      By Tara Ramroop

      SAN MATEO -- Depending on whom you talk to, a speed hump is either a
      life-saver or, literally, a roadblock to life-saving.

      The Public Works Commission is charged with reviewing both stances
      next month and eventually deciding which has more merit.

      Fire Department officials say speed humps delay response times and
      damage expensive, life-saving emergency engines. South Claremont
      Street residents say that without the traffic-calming devices, it's
      just a matter of time before a neighbor or child is killed or
      seriously injured on their too-busy street.

      Citing potential delays and damage, the Fire Department wants to
      eliminate speed humps as a traffic-calming option in the city.

      Areas that already have speed humps, such as Glendale Village, should
      not be affected, Heap said.

      San Mateo's traffic-calming program offers other kinds of devices,
      including traffic circles and roundabouts. "Non-vertical" devices
      such as traffic circles are much easier on firefighters, said Fire
      Marshal Mike Leong.

      Speed bumps, typically found in parking lots, have a steeper incline
      and are not used on streets. Speed humps have a more gradual incline,
      spreading over 12 feet in some cases.

      The South Claremont Street, Edinburgh Street and 26th Avenue areas all
      qualified for traffic-calming measures, having met criteria set by the
      city -- they see more than 1,000 cars per day, most of them going at
      least 7 mph over the speed limit.

      With traffic-calming steering committees recently formed for all three
      areas, fire officials decided that now was the time to bring the issue
      before the Public Works Commission, Leong said.

      There's no specific damage or delay to speak of recently in the city,
      said Leong, but Kelly had to deal with those problems while working
      for the Millbrae and Union City fire departments.

      Fire officials point to a study done jointly by the Portland Fire
      Department and Office of Transportation in the early 1990s as
      evidence, Leong said. He said the study found that depending on the
      size of the fire truck or engine, speed humps delay response times by
      9 to 11 seconds per hump.

      The repair bill for damaged brakes and suspension adds up to a lot,
      Leong said, when you're talking about $400,000 engines expected to
      last 15 years.

      "Those engines are not designed to go over vertical traffic-calming
      devices like speed humps," Leong said.

      Plans to remove speed humps riles some members of the South Claremont
      group, which has been itching for traffic-calming devices,
      particularly speed humps, for years now.

      "Speed humps are the most critical and effective way of slowing down
      speeders," said Pamela Mallett, South Claremont Neighbors Group

      Resident Douglas Lee acknowledged that fire truck damage is a valid
      problem, but he was leaning especially toward speed humps.

      "Anything else is icing on the cake for me," Lee said.

      The Public Works Commission meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14.

      Staff writer Tara Ramroop covers San Mateo.
      She can be reached at (650) 348-4302 or tramroop@...
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