Speed changes sought in New York City, towns

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/7/2014

More towns throughout New York could soon be allowed to set their own speed limits.

New York law now requires most towns to petition the state Department of Transportation to set local speed limits. However, villages, cities and about 80 towns with populations exceeding 50,000 are exempt from the requirement.

The Senate voted unanimously to advance a bill to the Assembly that would authorize all towns to enact ordinances to set speed limits within their own jurisdictions. According to a memo attached to the bill, the change would affect about 852 towns throughout the state.

Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensberry, said her bill would create a uniform policy treating all municipalities the same.

“This is a mandate relief measure,” she said in a news release. “Towns in New York are required to jump through a hoop that villages, cities and some very large towns don’t have to, costing them time and money.”

The bill would authorize towns to set speed limits on all town highways that are classified as local roads. Speeds would be posted below the 55 mph maximum speed limit.

“As the population of many towns increases, the need to address road safety through speed limits in a timely fashion also increases,” Little wrote in comments to justify why the change is necessary.

The DOT would continue to have jurisdiction to set speed limits on town roads for towns that don’t want to do it themselves.

The bill, S1356, awaits further consideration in the Assembly Transportation Committee.

Another speed bill in the Assembly Transportation Committee is intended to protect pedestrians in New York City.

A8478 would reduce the city’s 30 mph speed limit on all streets to 20 mph. Certain exceptions would apply.

Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, D-Manhattan, said the change could mean the difference between life and death.

He referred to numbers from 2013 that show the vehicle speed strongly correlates with the likelihood that an accident with a pedestrian will be fatal.

Critics of the plan say it’s an overreaction. They caution about traffic problems that would be created by lowering the posted speed limit. Instead, opponents said they would prefer to see stiffer punishment for aggressive drivers.

One more bill would reduce the speed limit in New York City from 30 mph to 25 mph.

Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, highlighted statistics that show about 4,000 New Yorkers are seriously injured, and more than 250 are killed each year in traffic accidents in the city. He said that reduced speeds have been proven to reduce fatality rates and give pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and drivers increased response time.

S6651 is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

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