By Dedra Cordle
A westside road that has been called an oddity due to its posted speed limit has been approved for a make-under by the state department of transportation.
At the Greater Hilltop Area Commission meeting on Oct. 4, vice-chair James White made the announcement that the established speed on Wilson Road would soon be reduced.
“It will be changed from 50 miles per hour to 45 miles per hour,” he said.
According to White, the county engineer’s office conducted a speed study this summer upon request from the commission.
He said he believed the city and the county were hesitant to have a study done out of concern that the criteria used by the state and federal government to determine road speeds would show it should be increased.
“That was the big fear for them, in my opinion,” said White. “I think that is why this has been such a long and tedious process.”
White said the commission has been asking for the speed limit on Wilson Road to be reduced for nearly a decade.
“There were residential areas at that time, and now it has a senior living facility, a park and bike trails,” he said. “We really made a push for this because it was becoming unsafe for the people who live there, who visit there, and even the motorists.”
Because the surrounding roads are below 50 miles per hour, White said it was imperative that it match the residential geography.
“It’s an oddity, especially on the Hilltop where it’s the only section of road where the speed limit is higher than the surrounding roads,” he said.
The commission said they were glad to hear that it will be reduced. They added that they will continue to fight for it to be lowered to 35 miles per hour
“I think (having the speed reduced) is a step in the right direction,” said Dan Fagan, chair of the commission.
In order for the speed limit on a roadway within the state to be reduced, the county engineer’s office has to conduct a traffic study where they compile data that reflect actual traffic conditions, roadway characteristics and also include an analysis using long-accepted engineering principles to determine an appropriate speed limit. The county engineers then compare the data collection to state guidelines and software tools provided by the Federal Highway Administration. That collection of data is then passed along to the state’s governing department for approval or disapproval.
White said that while he understands that this is the process used by the county and state to determine roadway speeds, he called it an outdated practice that unnecessarily slows safety concerns from the people who live within the impacted area. He added that he was encouraged by the growing number of legislative bodies who are trying to get legislation passed to remove some of the power the state wields to determine local roadway speeds.
“I think a lot of the state rules are just blanketly applied to everybody and that is something that just doesn’t work.”
The commission is awaiting city approval to accept the recommendation and for the county to begin posting the new speed limit signs.
“Hopefully it won’t be too much longer,” said White.
In other news, David Hooie, the program coordinator for the department of neighborhoods, said the city is working to fix the streetlights that are in need of repair throughout the Hilltop, especially along West Broad Street.
He explained that repairs to those streetlights, whose poles are frequently hit by motorists, have parts that are high in demand which is causing issues within the supply chain.
He said he wanted the public to know that they are aware of the problem and are working to find a solution for it.