Maybe Salt Lake City leaders have finally found something to replace all those cumbersome speed bumps.

Wednesday, the city unveiled its new "driver feedback" (DFB) signs, designed to let motorists know when they're going too fast in residential areas. While they won't replace speed bumps, Transportation Director Tim Harpst said the signs could ease the city's reliance on bumps and other intrusive traffic calming alternatives.

"We're trying to do things such as these driver feedback signs that are nonconstructive measures," Harpst said. "If they don't work then we'll have to use constructive measures like bulb outs and islands and speed humps."

The new DFB signs appear similar to regular speed limit signs but are digital and flash when an oncoming car is exceeding the posted speed limit.

The city's first two signs, which use radar to measure speed, were installed at 1300 West and 1130 West along 600 North. Transportation engineer Dan Bergenthal said the area was picked because of residents' frequent complaints of speeding.

Initially, there were concerns that the DFB signs might actually encourage speeding, Bergenthal said. Teenage drivers or others, he said, might want to use the signs as measuring devices to see how fast their car could go. To nip that potential problem in the bud, Bergenthal set the signs so that they will shut off when a vehicles' speed reaches over 45 or 50 mph.

The signs cost $4,000 to $5,000, and if they prove effective, Bergenthal and Harpst said they could be expanded into other city neighborhoods. The price tag is lower than the cost for speed bumps, and that might please the City Council.

Last year the council imposed a moratorium on speed bump construction after council members Jill Remington Love and Dave Buhler said traffic engineers were turning to speed bumps too quickly to solve residential speeding problems.

"Why can't we try some of these solutions instead of always turning to speed bumps?" Love asked last year. "We just turn to speed bumps every time."

In an effort to reduce reliance on speed bumps, the City Council staff is working on a plan to create residential speed zones — similar to school zones — which would make fines higher for drivers caught speeding in residential neighborhoods.

Buhler said he likes the city's new signs — anything to end the reliance on speed bumps.

"I think a lot of the time people just don't realize how fast they're going or realize what the speed limit is," he said.

Still, Bergenthal said the DFB signs weren't installed to appease the council. Instead, "we just saw these and said, 'this looks like a neat idea. Let's see if they work.' "


E-mail: bsnyder@desnews.com