Tree planting expected to slow traffic through campus

Late last month, 29 additional trees were planted along the west side of Highway 1 where it enters the Maharishi University of Management campus from the north ? a move that?s expected to have a calming effect on traffic.

According to Fairfield city councilman and M.U.M. alumnus Michael Halley, the university has long wanted to reduce the speed on Highway 1 through campus, but was told by the Iowa Department of Transportation that speed limits are determined by the average speed of 85 percent of drivers. Research has shown that deviating from this actually increases accidents.

The recommendation by D. O. T. was that Fairfield and the university introduce traffic-calming measures, and referred those concerned to the Jefferson County Iowa State University Extension office. Research has found that drivers will automatically reduce speed if they have a feeling they are entering a residential area.

Based on feedback from that office, and working with urban planners, Fairfield and M.U.M. developed a plan to implement specific measures. That plan includes a large limestone sign saying ?Fairfield? near the footbridge on the north side, so that drivers know they?re entering the city.

Then, past the footbridge, trees are being planted along both sides of the highway to give the feeling of a boulevard.

?They?re planted in rows, in a way that?s clear to drivers that this is man-made,? Halley said. ?It triggers the brain that they?re leaving the country and entering the city. The sign also will reinforce this.?

In addition, the trees are being planted in a very specific pattern. As vehicles drive south through campus, they will first pass larger trees spaced farther apart, and then will pass shorter trees spaced closer together ? a pattern that also has been shown to reduce speed.

A total of 44 trees have now been planted on the west side of the highway, and plans are to plant trees on the east side next spring.

The varieties include hackberry and crabapple.

?It?s a win-win-win situation,? Halley said. ?It improves public safety, it?s aesthetically pleasing, and it?s good for the environment. Wildlife like to feed on the fruit of these particular trees.?

Halley authored a grant proposal to Trees Forever for the 44 trees, and the planting was a cooperative effort among Trees Forever, D.O.T., and the city of Fairfield.

?It?s been a labor of love,? Halley said. ?After that first meeting with D.O.T., I was fascinated by the idea of traffic-calming measures and spent time reading up on it.?

He said the Green Iowa AmeriCorps volunteers on campus, along with M.U.M. Vice President Tom Brooks played a major role. ?I want to thank them ? they made a huge difference.?

Used with permission from The Review, Maharishi University of Management?s electronic news letter.