ASK ANN

"We have problems in several neighborhoods where grassed areas adjacent to the street are routinely used for parking private vehicles. This causes large bare areas where grass will not grow, contributing to dirty stormwater runoff and unsightly streets. I'd like to know of any programs or restrictions that have been successful in reducing damage to the right-of-way. Public Works proposed banning routine parking in grassed areas, but elected officials would not support it." Rick Carper, Atlantic Beach, FL

Elected officials. We all gotta love 'em and we do. However, they may not be aware of the issues you are facing with the stormwater regulations. I'd make certain they got a very detailed, but "layman" written explanation of the problems being created, including any additional costs involved in treating the runoff. Oftentimes, all public officials hear is, "Don't take away my private parking" from their constituents. As we all know, the "squeaky wheel gets the grease." If any of our members have more concrete solutions, you can contact Rick directly at rcarper@coab.us.

"I hear there is talk that a new chapter may be added to the Public Works Management Practices Manual which deals with bridges. Do you really think there's a need for that?"

Have you driven over many bridges in the past few years? As kids we used to have a contest to see who could hold their breath while we crossed our bridge. Now, we hold our breath to see if we'll make it all the way across based on the age and condition of the bridge. A recent total of bridges provided by the Federal Highway Administration/National Bridge Inventory website (www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/owner.htm) indicates there were at least 301,845 local bridges in 2006. This includes bridges owned by counties, towns, cities, other local jurisdictions and local toll agencies. Sounds like a good reason to have a new chapter. If you have comments, pro or con, about adding a chapter to the Manual on bridges, or if you would offer to help in writing the chapter if it is decided to move forward with it, please let me know at adaniels@apwa.net. Work on the 6th Edition of the Manual will begin in early spring, 2008.

"What are communities doing to gain input from their residents without spending a lot of time and money on a consultant to develop a survey every few years?"

Agencies with the capability to develop their own tracking systems are utilizing their websites to survey their citizens. In Clearwater, FL the system for citizen input is called the Citizen Issue Tracking System. CITS was developed in-house for soliciting feedback and then following up on a range of issues and questions. The program offers a dropdown menu of over 50 different categories that allows citizens to contact a particular person in a particular department about a particular concern. If you'd like more information about Clearwater's program, you might like to contact Gary Johnson, Public Services Director, at gary.johnson@myclearwater.com. One tip: Don't ask for opinions unless you are prepared to respond and to make changes when possible! There are many software programs that will provide the same results. I've only mentioned this one because it was developed in-house at less expense.

"So, is the big 'red light camera' craze over? I haven't heard much about it recently."

Depends where you are. The battle continues to be waged in many areas while some areas have already won the war and are using the red-light cameras with great success. For all those drivers who think the red-light cameras are only used as a source of revenue for the areas where they are placed, there is documented proof that placing the surveillance devices at major intersections dramatically reduces red-light running. Researchers for two different groups studied the cameras in Philadelphia and Virginia Beach. They found that violations dropped by 36% after yellow lights were extended to give drivers more warning of a light change. After red-light cameras were added, remaining violations dropped by 96% in Philadelphia. In Virginia Beach, violations tripled after the cameras were installed. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia use red-light cameras in some locations, with California, Maryland and Texas having the highest usage. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, more than 850 people die and about 170,000 are injured each year in red-light running incidents.

"How many accredited agencies are there now?"

I'm happy to report there are now 43 accredited agencies. The most recent to join the ranks is Pierce County, WA. Others are awaiting site visits this summer and early fall. You, too, can be an accredited agency. For more details, contact me at adaniels@apwa.net.

Ask Ann...

Questions are welcome.

Please address all inquiries to:

Ann Daniels
Director of Technical Services
APWA, 2345 Grand Blvd., Suite 500
Kansas City, MO 64108-2625

Fax questions to: (816) 472-1610
E-mail:
adaniels@apwa.net