City of Lawrence considering lowering speed limits on residential streets

photo by: Kim Callahan

A handmade sign in East Lawrence at the intersection of East Eighth and New York streets, seen Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, reminds motorists to drive slowly through residential neighborhoods.

Story updated at 3:42 p.m. Thursday

The City of Lawrence is considering lowering the speed limit on residential streets to help address concerns about speeding in neighborhoods.

Currently, the standard speed limit for residential streets is 30 mph, though some variations exist, according to city maps. The city has launched a survey to gather feedback about potentially reducing the speed limit. City officials say city engineers and members of the city’s Multi-Modal Transportation Commission are considering the change to address complaints and other input from residents.

“It stems back from a lot of the comments that we’ve received about worries of speeding through neighborhoods,” said Josh Carson, spokesman for the Municipal Services and Operations Department. Carson said the city hoped the survey would give additional people the chance to weigh in and give the city a broader idea of what residents would like to see occur.

Carson said that for years the city has received requests to change specific streets to a lower speed limit, and that upon review some speed limits have been lowered. He said instead of continuing with one-off changes, the city decided it would be best to evaluate the city as a whole. He noted that the severity of damage in a crash is lower when speeds are lower, and other cities have lowered speed limits on their residential streets.

The city launched a Lawrence Listens survey this week, and residents can complete the survey until 5 p.m. on Feb. 25. The two-question survey asks residents whether they prefer the current 30 mph standard or would like to see the speed limit lowered to either 25 mph or 20 mph. The survey then asks if residents have any other comments related to changing the standard speed limit on residential streets. The survey opened Wednesday and within a day already had more than 200 responses.

Carson said the city has found that speeding does occur in some neighborhoods, and that the survey results would help inform upcoming recommendations regarding the standard speed limit. He said considering such a change is part of the city’s new approach to traffic control.

Under the city’s previous traffic control policy, neighborhoods requested traffic calming measures, such as speed bumps, traffic circles or other physical devices, and the city decided whether or not to approve additions based on traffic volume and median speeds on the roadway. Carson said adding speed bumps just tended to shift drivers to adjacent streets, where speeding would continue to be a problem.

The City Commission adopted a new traffic control policy in December 2018. In addition to physical devices, the new approach relies more on traffic enforcement and education campaigns to improve neighborhood traffic issues. As part of a work plan to manage neighborhood traffic, the city has budgeted $85,000 for speed enforcement in neighborhoods this year. Earlier this winter, the City Commission also approved a $114,904 contract with a consulting firm to create a traffic safety campaign to help reduce speeding in neighborhoods.

Once the survey is complete, Carson said the results would be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the Transportation Commission. The Transportation Commission and city engineers will provide a recommendation regarding whether to lower residential speed limits to the City Commission, which will make the ultimate decision.

Related stories

Dec. 23, 2019 — City of Lawrence hires consultant to create campaign to reduce speeding in neighborhoods

Dec. 3, 2018 — Lawrence city leaders to consider new ways to manage speeding, other traffic issues in neighborhoods

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