Public safety has quickly become a trending topic as of late in the City of Greenville, particularly, the issue of dangerously high speeds of automobiles traveling through residential areas.
The concern was brought forth by Ward 2 Councilwoman Lois Hawkins during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the city council as she submitted a petition signed by Ward 2 residents in support of installing speed bumps in the area of need.
During the city’s public safety meeting on Wednesday, Tampa Drive community resident Paul Mathis broached the topic of speeding and the allowance of traveling trailer trucks, some he said are often overweight, resulting in further wear and tear of the road.
Public safety committee members Mayor Errick Simmons and Ward 3 Councilman Vernon Greenlee were present at the meeting along with Councilwoman Lurann Thomas-Kingdom who appeared in Ward 5 Councilwoman Tasha Banks’ stead.
What resulted from Wednesday’s meeting was a consensus made by the committee to send the matter of prohibiting travel of trailer trucks through Tampa Drive to the council for consideration.
Mathis, a Tampa Drive resident since 1991, said to the committee, “In 2001, there was an ordinance passed by the council Jan. 16, 2001, to put truck signs on Tampa Drive,” adding the neighborhood was still growing and residents were still moving in. “The strange thing about that ordinance, and I don’t know why the city did it, but they put truck traffic through half the streets in Greenville for no good reason.”
Mathis continued, “And if we’re talking about infrastructure, traffic and safety which brings me to today, there is no reason for traffic trailers and trucks to run through Tampa Drive — a residential neighborhood from Main Extended to 82 where children live, people are building houses, well respected and the largest tax base in this city is on Tampa Drive, Bayou Road…”
He also pointed out a Western Line School District bus stop in his neighborhood where he said parents and children find themselves “ducking” speeding trailer trucks.
“They have no weight load on these trucks that come through Tampa Drive and I don’t know how many of you have been on Tampa Drive but Tampa Drive is a mess,” Mathis said. “My request is simple and that is to remove truck traffic on Tampa Drive.”
Mathis asserted that Tampa Drive is being used essentially as a “shortcut” for trucks and its maximum speed of 30 mph is never adhered to by truckers which has caused apparent deterioration.
“You can drive on one side of Tampa and know exactly where the trucks are overloaded, fully loaded going towards Highway 82. It’s just obvious coming back the other way, you can see the difference,” he said.
Mathis also asserted that prohibiting truck traffic would not adversely affect farmers and that there are indeed farmers who support his endeavor.
He added, “It will enhance the neighborhood value and provide safety for residents and their children, it will eliminate the problem with school buses that come through to pick up children and it will make it a whole lot quieter.”
Simmons said in response, “I think it is an infrastructure and public safety concern that you’re bringing to the committee and we want to thank you for your commitment and what you do for this community.”
Interim police chief Dannie Graise acknowledged Mathis’ concerns were very important and recalled the matter being addressed by the council some time ago.
“I remember years ago they had a big battle back and forth about whether trucks should go up and down that particular stretch of highway and ultimately it came down to them allowing the trucks,” Graise said. “And as far as speeding is concerned, we will enhance speed patrol in that area.”
Councilman Greenlee said he has received a few calls from some of Mathis’ neighbors, some of whom are farmers concerned about the speed on Tampa Drive.
“So I think it’s a point well taken,” he said.
City planning director Gwendolyn Williams reiterated that it was a “big issue’’ years ago and during that particular time, a public hearing was held on the matter.
She recalled residents, business owners and farmers all attended the hearing but the end result was to allow trucks to travel on Tampa Drive.
“We will give those farmers, grain trucks, businesses, residents and folks on Harbor Front an opportunity to chime because this is public, but it is a residential area. On the left or right, it’s all residential,” Simmons said.
City attorney Andy Alexander advised the committee to make certain the authority lied with the city council before making a decision as to whether Tampa Drive is or is not an official or recognized truck route.
Consulting engineer Mark Hooker Jr. informed the committee that he reviewed the matter of Tampa Drive prior to the meeting and found that it was “not any kind of particular route other than a city street.”
“However, it is a state aid non-federal road system so one thing that I would recommend is maybe call state aid and talk to their chief engineer and see if there’s any restrictions for taking it off as a truck route,” he said. “As far as the MDOT classification, it just shows that it’s a city street.”
A motion was then made by Greenlee to send the matter to council contingent upon the prescribed advice and feedback from Alexander and Hooker. Simmons seconded the motion and it was carried unanimously.