Assembly to look at speed limit law

Posted: Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Current borough code includes a mechanism by which groups of residents can request special speed limits to restrict vehicle velocities in neighborhoods.

To submit a request, 70 percent of street residents must sign on to the idea.

Borough code, however, does not make it clear that a state law requires a costly investigation by and recommendation from traffic engineers before new speed signs can be posted.

Assemblyman Ron Long of Seward is backing an ordinance that would eliminate those provisions from the code. In a memo to the assembly, Long said the Road Service Area Board rarely authorizes the expensive engineering reviews, and that the code gives citizens unrealistic expectations that their neighborhoods would quickly see speed limits changed.

"Under state law the RSA cannot post a nonstandard speed sign unless the deviation from standard limits is supported by an engineering and traffic investigation," Long said.

The misleading code language makes it appear that all that is necessary is for 70 percent of street residents to apply and that at least 12 lots abut that street segment for a new sign to be posted, he said.

"Additionally, allowing various neighborhoods to have nonstandard speed signs can lead to a confusing nonuniform network of local speed restrictions that has the potential to be difficult to enforce and easy to inadvertently disobey," Long said.

Elimination of the code provisions would not prevent any deviations from standard speed limits, however.

Where a "truly unique situation" is present warranting a nonstandard speed, Long said, residents can work informally with the RSA director who would present the matter to the full board, which could than commission an engineering review.

If Ordinance 2008-06 becomes law, residents seeking a speed limit change would not be required to obtain signatures of 70 percent of the street's residents before presenting a request to the RSA director.

Currently, borough code provides standard maximum speed limits on borough roads consistent with state law. They include: 15 mph in alleys, 20 mph in a business district, 25 mph for residential areas and 55 mph on other roadways.

According to Gary Davis, borough roads director, there were 20 requests for changes in speed limits over the past three years. None were approved.

Hal Spence can be reached at hspence@ptialaska.net.



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