SCHENECTADY — The City Council on Tuesday agreed to pass a resolution calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign legislation allowing municipalities to reduce the minimum speed limit to 25 mph as it works to develop a strategy to curtail reckless driving.
The council’s Public Safety Committee advanced the resolution following a discussion about potentially reducing the citywide speed limit after state lawmakers earlier this year approved legislation allowing local governments to reduce the minimum speed limit from 30 to 25 mph.
Hochul has yet to sign the legislation, which the city lawmakers have lobbied for in the past in hopes of curtailing speeding and dangerous driving — a persistent problem that neighborhood groups have urged lawmakers to address on numerous occasions in the past.
Councilwoman Carmel Patrick, who brought the topic up for discussion, wanted the committee to advance a resolution approving the speed reduction pending the governor’s approval of the legislation so the change can be implemented once the law is signed, but withdrew the proposal due to a lack of support.
Other members, including Carl Williams and Marion Porterfield, wanted to hold off on passing the resolution until the legislation has been approved.
“I just don’t want it to be something that lingers out there and no action is taken by this council,” Patrick said. “It’s something that our residents have clearly communicated with us that they want something like this to happen.”
But the change would likely take months to complete any way.
John Coluccio, the city’s signal superintendent, estimated it would take between three to four months for the signs to be delivered and likely will cost the city around $10,000 to purchase. He said around 200 signs would need to be ordered.
Neighborhood groups for years have urged lawmakers to address speeding throughout the city by adopting a lower speed limit and a complete streets model that includes things like narrower driving lanes, raised crosswalks and protected bike lanes, which have been proven to improve safety for pedestrians and those using non-motorized forms for transportation.
Reducing the speed limit is not unprecedented and has been shown to bolster safety for pedestrians.
New York City reduced its speed limit from 30 to 25 mph in 2014 and the number of pedestrian fatalities fell by 23% over the following three years.
Also, a 2018 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that the number of vehicles exceeding speeds of 35 mph fell by nearly 30% when the city of Boston reduced its speed limit from 30 to 25 mph.
Assistant Police Chief Brian Whipple said he believes reducing the speed limit throughout the city would help reduce speeding, but said an education program must also be included in order to raise awareness about the change.
The council also discussed potentially adding speed humps to city streets as part of a larger plan to reduce reckless driving, which also includes lowering the speed limit, installing additional flashing stop signs and developing ways to bolster education and enforcement around speeding.
The city last year set aside $20,000 to purchase and install a series of speed humps, but plans have stalled as officials work to hammer out details.
City Engineer Christopher Wallin said he has been working with law enforcement officials and Coluccio to develop a list of criteria for installing speed humps as well as potential locations.
But he noted the devices come with rigorous guidelines that must be followed, and other municipalities, like Rochester, have imposed their own additional criteria for installing the humps, which he said are under review.
Criteria in the Rochester plan include an engineering study and 75% of residents on a street signing off on installing the humps. The devices also can’t be installed on streets that run parallel and along main thoroughfares.
“Buying them is easy,” Wallin said.
Wallin said he would also like to review how reducing the speed limit might impact CDTA service before any change is made.
“I would like to look at it more,” he said.
Wallin is expected to begin developing a plan for installing speed humps, which the council will review at its next committee meeting in two weeks.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.