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Dart Drive

Village of Lansing Trustees have been considering how best to address Dart Drive residents who have expressed safety concerns, largely due to speeders who use the route to avoid Route 13 traffic between Triphammer and Warren Roads.  The Trustees were talking about building a sidewalk, and adding a crosswalk where the new walking trail to Marion Hartill Park meets Dart Drive.  But speeding statistics have caused Village officials to rethink the sidewalk solution.

"There has been some question about what extent we have to go to on Dart Drive to make it safe for pedestrians," reported Mayor Donald Hartill at the March 18th Trustees meeting. "We're still thinking about what that is, whether it's a full blown sidewalk or something else.  My analyst did some analysis on the speed limit.  While the speed limit is 25, the average speed is actually more like 29 miles per hour."

The issue came up again at Monday's Trustees meeting, when Trustee Ronny Hardaway challenged the speeding data, saying that he has observed times when the radar signs are not working.  Highway Superintendent John Courtney explained that sometimes the signs may not appear to be working, but are still gathering data.  Hartill said that he wants to analyze the data further before spending a half million dollars on a sidewalk when other solutions may turn out to be more cost effective, while still addressing the problem. 

Hartill said that analyzing the distribution of recorded speeds on the road will better inform a decision than just the average speed.  He said that going forward with an expensive sidewalk project has become less urgent because statistics taken from the two radar signs on Dart Drive show an average speed of 29 miles per hour.  But he added that looking at the number of cars that go above the 25mph speed limit will better inform village officials as they decide what safety measures to take.

"We know there are some fairly high speeds," Hartill said. "We want to see what the distribution looks like.  You can get the distribution by just looking at the violators. Just going 25, 30, 35, and 40 you'll get the distribution -- that's the interesting part.  it's easy to do.  Since it's not a thing that's going to write a speeding ticket we can do the test and see what the distribution is."

Village officials budgeted $517,000 dollars for the Dart Drive sidewalk project, but Courtney says that the Village may not need to spend that much to improve safety on that road.

"We just wanted to put a placeholder on that budget," he said. "We know there are potential needs there.  I think what this is allowing us to do is take the tone that was originally set and say now we have time to really engineer it and have a long discussion and really design it right, rather than take a quick approach and say we need to do something now.  This is going to buy us time and see what the real needs are."

Courtney added that changes in the way easements are granted have made it harder to do projects like the sidewalk project the trustees are considering.

"Easements are very, very tough nowadays, because we have attorneys who want the Ts crossed and the Is dotted," he said. "So you need more mortgage releases, which makes it more difficult to get an easement.  Years ago we just got an easement, it got filed at the Clerk's office, done deal. Nowadays the mortgages are null and void if an easement's given without the bank's consent.  So we're struggling to get easements. It's a lot more difficult now than it used to be."

The village has hit that wall on another project north of Dart Drive, where a second water pipe is to be installed on Northwoods Road.  Courtney said that ideally the pipes are placed a distance apart, so that if one is damaged the other is likely to continue to deliver water.  But over the course of a year the Village was unable to obtain easements, forcing a redesign that places the pipes together in the area the Village already has the rights to. 

While eminent domain is one option the village could invoke, Hartill has said many times that is not something he wants to do.  That leaves obtaining easements from every Dart Drive homeowner on the side of the road the sidewalk would be built on.  Courtney said that even if a decision is made to go forward with a sidewalk on Dart Drive, it would not be built any time soon.

"You're looking at one or two years to get easements," he said. "If you're looking at one or two easements on a long road-front property it's not so bad. When you're talking about parcels that only have two or three hundred feet of road frontage, and you're talking about a mile, that's a lot of houses to get easements on, so that can take some time."

Hardaway, whose home is on Dart Drive, said that his neighbors are "pretty adamant about wanting something."  he said that just knowing the Village has started the process will help ease their concern.  Courtney said that taking the time to analyze radar sign data as part of coming up with a thoughtful project with better results.

"The way it's designed right now, putting a side walk next to the road -- no matter what you do it's going to be expensive," Courtney said. "But if there is a more cost effective way to approach it by getting some easements, that may be the right approach."

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