For weeks this fall, residents driving down sections of Sunset Avenue (between Mt. Prospect and Brookdale avenues) and Oakridge Avenue (near Stocker Road) were caught off-guard by divots in the street caused by parallel strips of asphalt that had been cut out of the roadway. The orange cones that were eventually placed there were helpful, especially in the dark, but only added to the mystery. Were the breaks in the macadam stealth weapons to slow down speeders? Or were they soon to be raised up into bona fide speed “tables”? The location of the strips on notorious cut-through streets, and the precise spacing of the cutouts, did seem to point that way. Then, one day in mid-November, the cones and divots disappeared as mysteriously as they appeared, covered up by fresh asphalt.
Oakridge Road residents were particularly confused by the turn of events, since they had been told at a meeting this past summer in connection with the street’s planned fall repaving that speed tables would be installed as part of the project. At that meeting, the residents in attendance literally cheered the announcement. Once the resurfacing was complete in late October, residents got notices in their mailboxes that speed bumps were going in; the next day trenches were dug.
Then, for two and a half weeks, nothing happened. Finally, the trucks were back, but not to install speed bumps: To Oakridge residents’ astonishment, workers filled in the indentations in the asphalt. Sunset’s divots have also disappeared. (Derwent Avenue, by the way, went through the same trenching process, but there actual speed humps were installed. And yes, they are slowing traffic down.)
At least one Oakridge resident suspects that a neighbor who was opposed to the speed humps swayed town officials against them at the eleventh hour. Further down Oakridge, near the corner of Fellswood, spray paint still shows where the macadam was marked–but never cut, perhaps indicating some resistance from that quarter. But how could one person’s objection alter a decision that had been approved and planned by the town, communicated to residents and for which work had even been started? What did the town spend on doing and un-doing the speed bump work, and why were the residents who had supported the bumps—who had appealed for them for more than a decade–not brought into the process when the thinking changed? What is going to deter speeders now that the road is smooth? These days, one resident says wistfully, they’re missing their potholes, which at least slowed drivers down.
Township Engineer Jim Helb did not return calls from MyVerona.