South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Green Park approves speed humps in Ronnie Hills amid safety debates

Green Park City Hall

The Green Park Board of Aldermen approved the deployment of four speed humps in the Ronnie Hills subdivision at its Nov. 20 meeting.

Mentioned multiple times at the meeting, the addition of speed humps in Ronnie Hills has been a constant discussion for years. Residents of the subdivision have long been talking about a speeding issue in their neighborhood, though survey results from 2014, 2017 and 2023 show that speeding actually does not occur too frequently. There have been, however, some instances of extreme speeding which although rare, is undeniably unsafe. Other traffic violations – such as rolling stop signs – do happen often, and many drivers use the subdivision as a cut through. While not necessarily a violation, cutting through Ronnie Hills clogs up the residential streets with extra traffic.

Due to all this, the city has tried various traffic calming strategies, but unfortunately, none have worked too well. The idea of speed humps had been thrown around for a while, though due to “a couple of hurdles” the board never moved forward with it. 

While the two words sound the same, speed humps differ from the more well-known speed bumps. Speed humps are slightly shorter in height but longer in width, and are typically used to keep traffic between 10 and 15 miles per hour, while speed bumps are higher and are typically used to keep traffic between 2 and 10 miles per hour. 

The first of these “hurdles” is Beishir Landscape Maintenance. The company has provided Green Park snow and leaf removal services since 2014 and is worried the proposed speed humps would ruin its snow plows. 

“When the plow hits (a speed hump), it’s designed to collapse, but if you hit it hard enough, you may have mechanical damage,” City Engineer Derrick Madej explained.

Another “hurdle” is the Mehlville Fire Protection District. 

“Up until 1988, the district did not allow any type of speed calming device, which would include a speed bump. In 1988…we had a subdivision come to us. They presented speed bumps that would be a maximum of 2 inches high. The board at that time agreed to that, and that’s what our ordinance has been since 1988. Having higher speed bumps presents a couple of challenges,” Fire Marshal Ed Berkel told the board. 

Some of these challenges include medics putting IVs in their patients while driving over the larger humps – which would be extremely difficult and dangerous, as well as the strain on the rear axles of the fire trucks that would occur from driving over the humps. 

Thuston mentioned that he was told by contractors that a 2-and-a-half or 2-inch hump does not have enough resistance to speed compared to a 3 or 3-and-a-half-inch hump.

“That presents a significant challenge for us,” Berkel responded.

Ward 2 Alderman Tammy Witzig brought up the possibility of having “grooved” humps so firetrucks and other emergency vehicles would be less or unaffected by the humps, though she emphasized that she was no expert and would have to look into it. 

“I’m not saying it will work, I’m just saying that it’s something to look into because other towns or cities have used it,” she said.

Witzig then asked if there was anything the board could do to get the maximum height changed from 2 inches to 3. Berkel responded that the Board of Aldermen would have to approach the MFPD Board of Directors, though Green Park City Attorney Paul Rost disagreed. 

“Actually, and I mean all respect to the fire district, but they don’t have control over our streets. We have control of our streets. If we want to put 3 inch, we can put 3 inch. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t work with the fire district to make sure it’s the best possible thing, but it has no effect over our streets. We have control over our streets,” Rost said.

“We want to be good neighbors,” Thuston added. “We’re not asking for a lot throughout the entire city, and they’re not gonna grow and grow exponentially.”

The focus of the discussion then turned to how many speed humps there should be and what streets they should be on. Thuston suggested that they start with four humps – two on Patsy Drive and two on Marbob Drive, as they are the busiest streets in the subdivision – due to the steep cost of each hump and the aforementioned hurdles. If the humps worked to slow traffic, he said, the board could think about putting in more at a later date. 

Witzig and Ward 2 Alderman Ron Slattery believed five humps were needed, and went back and forth with Thuston about it until finally a vote was held. Ward 3 Alderman and Acting President of the Board Joe Monteleone, Ward 3 Alderman Martin Finn, Ward 1 Alderman Carol Hamilton and Ward 1 Alderman Michael Broughton voted in favor of the four proposed humps, while Witzig and Slattery held their ground on wanting five, and voted against the four proposed humps. Despite the two votes against, the deployment of the four humps passed. 

“You’re free to discuss it further at the next meeting, when you have a more substantial plan as to where the locations are going to be, how much it’s going to cost, the adoptions, things of that nature,” Mello told the board after the vote. 

And discuss it they did. The topic of humps was brought up again at the board’s Dec. 18 meeting, this time with Mehlville Fire Protection District Fire Chief Brian Hendricks present. 

“My job is to make sure that you understand the magnitude of whatever decision you choose to make,” Hendricks said. “Speed bumps, of course, (are) going to slow everybody down, but it’s also going to significantly increase our response times.” 

He then explained that before the meeting, he and some of his crew plotted the entire course where the board talked about putting the humps to analyze response times in both non-emergency and emergency situations. It was found that the response times increased by about 45 seconds when speed humps were present. 

“Now, I’m not trying to scare anybody, I’m just giving you a real-world assessment of anybody along that route: it’s gonna take us longer to get there and I just don’t want to be in a position that I have to explain to a citizen or family member,” Hendricks said. “Because everybody always says ‘it took you forever to get here.’” 

Hendricks added that the equipment in each emergency vehicle – especially ambulances – is well over $150,000 to $200,000, and driving over the humps could easily damage it. On top of damaging the equipment, driving over the humps could also damage the patients already in critical states. 

“Sometimes it’s not possible for us to have (the equipment) strapped down. We have a patient in the back of the ambulance and we’re running a 12 lead EKG and we hit that speed bump – you see the problem,” he said. 

To avoid this problem, Hendricks suggested the city use removable saw horses or a-frame barricades to calm the traffic instead. 

“These can be staggered throughout a route, they can be moved to a distance of your liking, they can be removed during inclement weather,” he explained.

Thuston also brought up the possibility of speed cushions – a very low, raised elongated service, shorter than a speed hump or bump – as another possibility. 

The conversation continued for some time, with many of the same points emphasized: the traffic issue in Ronnie Hills has been a consistent problem for 20 years, the fire department wants to keep everyone safe and is concerned that the humps will delay and/or deter them from doing so and the shared interest for the project to be as mutually beneficial as possible for both parties. Before wrapping up, Slattery and Witzig – both aldermen for the ward the proposed project is in – mentioned that many of the residents of Ronnie Hills rarely see emergency vehicles driving through the subdivision. 

“How many times a year is this going to create a problem?” Witzig asked.

“Every time we have to go down that street,” Hendricks responded. “It’s going to be really important to the family member that’s impacted.”

As far as the next steps, it is unclear, though if construction does occur, the city will have to wait until spring for temperatures to rise.