Not only is the speed limit set to remain at 40 mph on a widened stretch of West Sixth Street, but the speed limit farther to the east may come down a bit, too.
Kansas Department of Transportation spokesman Joe Blubaugh said Wednesday that the state is considering lowering the 45 mph speed limit that exists on Sixth Street between Comet Lane and Folks Road. That way, it would match the 40 mph limit recently put into place farther to the west at the scene of a soon-to-be-finished $8 million road-widening project.
Speed limits on the western end of Sixth Street have been a hot topic lately, with many drivers complaining that they've been stopped and ticketed on the way in and out of town. Some drivers say the 40 mph "work zone" speed limit between Wakarusa Drive and Kansas Highway 10 is too low, given that the work in the area is almost done and is on hiatus until spring.
But state officials say drivers should get used to the idea of slowing traffic on what once was a rural highway.
"When it came right down to it, this project was designed for 40 mph," Blubaugh said. "KDOT made that decision with a lot of feedback from the city."
But Blubaugh wouldn't rule out the possibility that the speed limit in the area may change again in the future. Once all the work is done on the project - something expected to happen in May - KDOT will conduct a traffic study to see how fast people actually are driving through that stretch of road.
So far, the 40 mph limit has taken some getting used to. Lawrence Police issued 359 speeding tickets in the work zone in January - roughly 36 percent of all speeding tickets issued citywide during the same period.
In the past year, the number of tickets given in the work zone has varied widely from month to month. In November, for example, there were 47 speeding tickets in the area, representing 6 percent of the speeding tickets issued citywide. In June, there were 287 speeding tickets in the area, or 30 percent of the tickets issued citywide.
Police say the department's traffic officers initially began running radar in the area at the request of KDOT crews, but since then they've made it part of their regular patrols. Traffic patrols often focus on the city's entrances, police say, whether it's Kansas Highway 10, the southern end of Iowa Street or North Second Street.
"The purpose of this enforcement is to slow drivers down as they enter the city to protect the safety of the citizens of Lawrence," LPD spokeswoman Kim Murphree said. "As development continues in the area of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive, this west entrance to the city may see an increase in traffic flow, which may result in an increase in traffic violations."
Last year, the city collected $2.8 million from traffic fines and court fees, compared with an overall city budget of $125 million. Assistant City Manager David Corliss said that despite some residents' perceptions, generating money isn't a factor when the city decides how to enforce traffic laws.
"We don't do it to balance the $125 million budget," he said. "We do it because enforcing traffic laws is a teaching moment for all drivers that we need to be careful as we drive and follow the traffic laws."