A. General Discussion - Areas of Responsibility
Traffic Engineering is under the direction of the City Traffic Engineer, Eric Lom. The Municipal Services Committee is the committee of jurisdiction for all traffic issues. The Traffic Section is located at the Municipal Services Building and can be reached at the general number (832-5580.) The Traffic Section staff has responsibility for all aspects of traffic engineering. These include:
Planning & Design
Work Zone Traffic Control Operations and Enforcement
Design and implementation of the Traffic Operations Center
These areas are generally described in the following paragraphs.
Planning, Design, and Control:
Both short-term and long-term planning are responsibilities of this section. Short-term planning projects include, among other things, traffic signal timing and operational changes, intersection analysis, and signal coordination studies. Long-term planning projects include master planning for an efficient traffic network throughout the City, analysis and design of new roadways and reconstruction of existing roadways and official mapping of future arterial streets.
All street construction projects and new development projects are reviewed. Input is provided on street widths, parking restrictions, intersection design, signal layout, signage and work zone traffic control. Other design projects are initiated based on crash rates and traffic-handling capacity.
Traffic control is another duty of this section. Ordinances permit designation and control of speed limits, truck routes, through streets, parking restrictions, turn restrictions, etc.
The Traffic Section uses three basic types of signs for traffic control: regulatory signs, warning signs and guide signs. Regulatory signs (stop, yield, no parking, etc.) inform road users of traffic laws and regulations. Warning signs (merge, bump, etc.) warn drivers of potentially hazardous conditions. Guide signs (street name, downtown, etc.) guide vehicle operators through the city. The Traffic Section, after determining signage requirements, makes, installs and maintains these signs. There are approximately 38,300 signs for which this section is responsible. Each year over 1,640 signs are serviced, installed or removed.
In 2008, the Federal Highway Administration enacted legislation mandating minimum retro-reflectivity levels for most traffic signs. In 2010, we will be hiring a consultant to develop an Inventory System. Based on the results of the inventory analysis, we will be replacing signs to meet the Federal compliance date of January, 2015.
The Traffic Section is responsible for determining pavement marking requirements and providing them where necessary. Pavement marking (centerline, lane lines, crosswalks, etc.) convey warnings and guidance to the driver without diverting his attention from the roadway. Approximately 800 crosswalks and 1,000 stop bars are repainted semi-annually.
The Traffic Section is also responsible for painting the parking stalls designating on-street metered stalls, and some on-street non-metered stalls. On-street parking stalls are painted semi-annually or as needed.
The Traffic Section is responsible for determining where traffic signals are warranted, designing and specifying the equipment to be used, and designing an appropriate signal timing plan. This service is a vital element in providing a safe and efficient traffic system throughout the city.
Traffic signals are valuable devices for the control of vehicle and pedestrian traffic and, therefore, must be properly designed and maintained. The Traffic Section is responsible for maintaining 88 traffic signals for the City of Appleton, 18 traffic signals for Outagamie County, and 8 signals for the Town of Grand Chute. Proper maintenance is crucial. State law mandates that a minimum of three signal faces be visible to all approaches. There are approximately 75 knockdowns each year for which this section is responsible.
The Traffic Section also oversees the maintenance and upgrading of the Traffic Operations Center. This state-of-art facility allows for real time monitoring, adjustment and coordination of approximately 35% of the City’s traffic signals.
Street lighting allows motorists and pedestrians to proceed with greater safety, comfort and convenience at night. Street lighting has also been attributed to crime prevention, business promotion and community pride. Street lights are not mandated by state statutes, but instead are governed by City policy. There are approximately 8,100 street lights in the City.
B. On-Street Parking Restrictions
City ordinances establish on-street parking restrictions. Changes to these restrictions are under the jurisdictions of the City Traffic Engineer and Municipal Services Committee. The City has a general prohibition against on-street parking between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. This prohibition allows the department to plow snow in the winter, sweep the streets, collect leaves, and enhances the efficiency of our automated refuse collection program. It also is a tool used by the police when monitoring neighborhoods for illegal activities. Overnight parking permission can be obtained on a case by case basis from the Police Department. Permits are issued to property owners in construction areas that allow them to park overnight until their street opens.
Requests for specific parking restrictions such as No Parking zones, time limit parking, handicap parking, loading zones, etc., can be directed to the City Traffic Engineer. Requests will be reviewed for their impact on safety, traffic flow, engineering standards, and for neighborhood acceptance. Recommendations are made to the Municipal Services Committee for action. Necessary ordinance revisions are then sent to the Common Council for their approval.
C. Speed Limits
Establishing speed limits is under the jurisdiction of the City Traffic Engineer and the Municipal Services Committee. Speed limits are set using guidelines provided in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. School zones are 15 mph and residential streets are generally standardized at 25 mph. Speed limits on higher volume streets are set based on the 85th percentile speed of actual on-street traffic. This is the recorded speed that 85% of drivers comply with. In many cases, this results in a speed limit higher than desired by area residents or City Common Council. The reality is that most drivers operate at a speed at which they feel comfortable and pay little attention to posted limits. Setting a speed limit lower than the 85th percentile leads to an erroneous expectation that all drivers will comply. It also leads to greater variation in experienced vehicle speeds. Both of these result in decreased safety for both motorists and pedestrians. As difficult as it may be to accept, many times lower speeds limits actually result in an increased rate of accidents and a decline in safety.
It should be noted that speed limits on the county trunk highway system are set by the County. We can only request consideration for speed limit changes on these roadways. County trunk speed limits lower than 40 mph also require State approval.
D. Street Lighting
Street lighting is provided by the Department of Public Works throughout the City. Requests for additional street lights can be given directly to the City Traffic Engineer or put forward by resolution. The Municipal Services Committee is the committee of jurisdiction. Most street lights are mounted on wood utility poles and are leased from We Energies. We Energies maintains these lights as part of the lease agreement. Outages should be reported directly to We Energies at 1-800-662-4797. Leased street lights cost approximately $150 each per year.
In addition to leased lights, the City owns and maintains approximately 650 street lights on aluminum and concrete standards. These lights are located downtown, on Wisconsin Avenue, and on some bridges. These lights are maintained by the Traffic Section electricians. Outages or malfunctions for City-owned lights should be reported to the Municipal Service Building at (832-5580.)
Some subdivision developers request ornamental lighting as part of their development. These ornamental lights are leased from We Energies and the extra cost is assessed to the subdivision property owners annually.
In general, street lights are placed at intersections, at the end of cul-de-sacs, and mid-block approximately 300 feet apart.
E. Traffic Control Devices
Installation of traffic control devices (signals, stop signs, yield signs, etc.) at the City’s 2,070 intersections is governed by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. All such devices must be approved by the Municipal Services Committee. Requests for installation of or modification to traffic control devices should be directed to the City Traffic Engineer. Traffic Engineering personnel routinely monitor many of the significant intersections in the City to evaluate the level of traffic control required. We also have an ongoing program to review uncontrolled intersections. The level of traffic control required is based on a number of factors including:
1. Traffic Volume
2. Critical Approach Speeds (visibility)
3. Crash History
4. Pedestrian Activity
5. Gaps in Traffic Flow
Intersection controls range, in increasing level of control, from uncontrolled to Yield to two-way Stops to four-way Stops to signals. Signalizing an intersection costs approximately $85,000 for the initial installation plus $2,500 - $3,500 per year for maintenance. The warrants for each level of control are specific. Choosing either a greater or lesser level of control has the potential to increase the frequency of crashes and may unnecessarily impede traffic flow. One of the most difficult facts to explain to a resident is that increasing the level of intersection control may actually reduce safety at that intersection.
F. Trial Periods
Trial periods of up to 90 days may be set by the Municipal Services Committee or by executive order of the Mayor (subject to confirmation by the Municipal Services Committee) for temporary installation of traffic control devices. These include Stop signs, Yield signs, speed limit signs, parking restrictions, etc. These trial periods allow an opportunity to evaluate the impact of changes or to respond immediately to an emergency situation. After 90 days, controls must be either removed or confirmed as permanent by the Municipal Services Committee and City Common Council.
Temporary traffic control devices and parking restrictions may be enacted by order of the City Traffic Engineer or Police Chief to aid traffic flow or increase safety during construction projects. These restrictions do not need council or committee approval and will be removed at the completion of the construction project.