LARGO – Mayor Woody Brown said one of the most frequent requests he’s heard from residents during the past 10 years is to do something about cars speeding on their roads.
After reviewing the results from a citywide speed study March 13, commissioners heeded those concerns and gave the green light to reducing the residential speed limit from 30 to 25 mph.
Since 30 mph roadways don’t need signage, the move would require the city to install 1,058 new speed limit signs on 529 roadways at a cost of about $50,000, city engineers told the City Commission during a work session at City Hall.
“I don’t think that this will solve all the problems, but I think it’s a step in the right direction, and it shows some real responsiveness from this commission toward trying to improve things,” Brown said. “Personally, I don’t see a downside other than the cost, and I think we could probably creatively reduce that cost a little bit, too.”
To do that, he recommended looking into the feasibility of placing signs at just the entrances of some neighborhoods that state all roads in the area have a 25-mph limit.
In order to reduce the limit, state statutes required the city to first conduct a speed study of at least three roadways to determine if the measure was reasonable.
A combination of a study by the Cardno engineering firm on Ninth Street Northwest, 19th Place Southwest and Britton Street, and 76 previous studies conducted by the Largo Police Department over the past three years showed the city was within its rights to make the move.
City engineers said they didn’t think the reduction would cut down on residential accident rates, however, because, according to the LPD, 72 crashes with pedestrians occurred last year, but none of them were on residential roadways.
“This thing looks like a solution in search of a problem,” said Commissioner Curtis Holmes, who preferred tackling problem roadways one at a time as opposed to a citywide ordinance. “I mean there’s no safety aspect here. Obviously even the police department’s kind of lukewarm on the thing, so why spend $50,000 when there’s really not a problem.”
Brown acknowledged the reduction might not work and he preferred engineering solutions, such as narrowing roads or traffic-calming measures, but he also said those are long-term solutions and they won’t make residents feel safer now.
“I don’t know whether the problem would go away if we changed it to 25,” he said. “I kind of doubt that it would, but I think that ignoring the problem is not a good solution.”
He said he examined the speed studies in-depth and, while most people hovered around the 30-mph limit, some cars were going as much as 60 mph.
“Frankly, I wouldn’t let my kids walk down that road,” he said. “So, what I’d like to do is to have the people who live in neighborhoods in our town be comfortable to allow their kids to walk down the sidewalk. And if that requires us to reduce the speed limit, that’s great. If it requires us to do engineering to improve the roadways so people don’t feel like speeding down, I’d be willing to do that too.”
Commissioners Michael Smith and Jamie Robinson agreed that the move at least showed citizens that the commission cares.
“I just think if we don’t do something and we just turn around and put it back to the citizens, all we are going to hear is here is our government not doing something and protecting our children and protecting our walkers,” Smith said. “And that’s the perception I do not want.”
Brown noted that adding the 25 mph signs might also benefit the enforcement efforts of police officers.
“Police officers have told me that they feel like they are not going to write a ticket, that they don’t have much enforcement power because there’s no signage on the street,” he said.
Since Dunedin and Safety Harbor also have a 25 mph speed limit, Brown asked city staff to inquire about any downsides or unintended consequences of lowering the limit.
Engineers noted that one of those downsides might be confusion because the city has no control over county roads, such as Donegan Road or Eighth Avenue Southwest, and some neighborhoods contain roadways that jump jurisdictions.
A consensus of commissioners felt the move was still worthwhile, so city staff will return with a proposed citywide ordinance reducing the limit.
“It’s at least showing that we are trying to make an effort to slow the traffic down,” Robinson said.