The Lansing City Council learned during a work session Thursday that lowering the speed limits on some of its residential streets might not be easy.
The Lansing City Council learned during a work session Thursday that lowering the speed limits on some of its residential streets might not be easy. Still, the members of the council who were present indicated they did wish to move forward with efforts to change from 30 to 20 miles per hour speed limits in some neighborhoods in response to resident comments and concerns. “I have emails from people who live in the new part of Rock Creek and one that lives in Rock Creek Estates, and they’re all adamantly opposed to the speed limit being 30,” said Councilwoman Andi Pawlowski. “It’s too dangerous, kids are out walking, biking, playing.” Mayor Ken Bernard said he was in agreement with that, as were the other members of the council. “I don’t think there’s anybody against wanting it lowered,” said Councilman Dave Trinkle. “It’s just figuring out how we can try to do it legally.” Residential speed limits in the city are set at 30 miles per hour by a 1994 state statute, according to Public Works Director John Young. He said that the only way to deviate from that uniform statute, meaning one that doesn’t allow for communities to opt out, is by performing an engineering and traffic study that recommends lowering the speed. “That can sometimes be a gamble,” he said, since the study is not guaranteed to recommend a change. The problem is that there are streets that were marked as 20 miles per hour after 1994 but should be 30 miles per hour to comply with the statute. Young said the city was supposedly unaware of the statute at the time those signs were posted. City Attorney Greg Robinson said another statute provided by Councilman Gregg Buehler that governed speed limits did not mention cities, only state and county police forces, leading Robinson to caution that cities might not have that same authority. Another statute disallows cities from changing speeds on streets that are “links” to state roads. Bernard suggested the city get clarification on all of those rules before moving forward with traffic and engineering studies. “I think the first thing we ought to do is get a legal interpretation of this from the attorney general,” he said. “And then go on from there to KDOT.” Pawlowski said if that route fails, the city should approach its legislative delegation. The time in between writing the letter to the attorney general and resolving the situation could be problematic, Robinson said. Young said he was postponing the replacement of some of the 20 mile per hour signs in the disputed areas — they will need to replaced one way or another due to new reflexivity requirements, but he said he wanted to do it only once. The larger issue, according to Robinson, is with enforcement in those places with signs posted after 1994 that are in non-compliance with the statute. “It should be properly marked, and if it’s not and we know about it, I think we have a duty to do it or we don’t enforce it,” he said. Councilman Kerry Brungardt said regardless of how the council felt now and what actions it is taking for the future, it was incumbent on them to follow the law as it is now written. City Administrator Mike Smith said the city’s police officers would be advised to enforce the speed limits as defined in the current statute.