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Bainbridge examining speed limit reduction

Does Bainbridge need a maximum island-wide speed limit?

Tackling that question may not be far off – conversation at the committee and council level have touched on the feasibility of setting a maximum speed.

Currently, Bainbridge has no standard limit. There are no speed limits that exceed 40 mph (excluding State Route 305).

Council members will likely discuss the idea this Wednesday, which has been mulled in the Public Works and Transportation committee.

“It makes sense given the condition of many of our roads,” council member Kim Brackett said. “The safety factor increases dramatically for pedestrians, bicyclists and cars when you reduce speeds.”

Setting an island-wide limit would also alleviate a backlog of speed-reduction applications received by the city.

According to public works director Randy Witt, the city gets anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 road-related requests a year from citizens.

The issue of an island-wide limit was raised after New Sweden Avenue residents approached the PWTC about reducing the 35 mph speed limit on their road. They have been asking for a change since last spring, citing the narrow width of the road, increased traffic and altered school bus routes.

But to reduce the limit, the city needs to complete a surveying phase. Currently, public works has a long wait list for road surveys. New Sweden traffic studies are expected to begin in November and finish before the end of the year, Witt said.

If the council were to approach an all-island speed limit, reliance on city surveys could influence their decision, but the results are not binding.

A traffic study conducted on Miller Road last year recommended lowering the speed limit along the stretch skirting Bainbridge Gardens and maintaining the 40 mph speed along the rest of the road. The council decided to reduce the entire road to 35 mph despite the recommendation.

Then there is the matter of enforcing a lower speed limit, and if residents would adhere to the new regulations.

“There are so many different facets to creating that type of rule,” said Police Chief Matt Haney. “If your goal is to create safer roads, you have to change driver behavior. To do that, you need education, engineering and enforcement.

“Talking about enforcement is about as popular as putting parking meters in downtown Winslow,” Haney said. “Then there is the matter of who’s going to enforce it. It spreads the officers pretty thin.”

Tackling the speed limit on SR-305 would be beyond the purview of the city. But, according to Department of Transportation traffic engineer Steve Bennett, it would not be hard for residents or the city to petition the state for a speed change.

Currently, DOT is looking at changing the speed on SR-305 at the north end of the island. DOT will likely approve extending the 45 mph speed limit from the Agate Pass bridge to Agatewood Road in the coming months, Bennett said.

For the rest of the island, a maximum speed limit is likely to be a point of some consternation and debate if the issue is taken up by the council.

“Inevitably people will complain and you could imagine the argument,” council member Chris Snow said. “But in a time when citizens think the city and the council aren’t being responsive, this is a good matter to take up for discussion.”

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