Speed Limit Changes Could Extend Beyond JPA

By: Chris Stover Email
By: Chris Stover Email

April 15, 2013

Traffic may be moving a bit slower on certain Charlottesville roads as city council considers a new proposal to knock the speed limit down on one particular stretch of road.

People near the Fry's Spring section of the city have voiced concerns about a particular stretch of Jefferson Park Avenue between Cleveland and Fontaine avenues. They want to see the speed limit marked down from 35 mph to 25 mph.

A report done by the city shows the speed limit should be 30 mph, but city staff is recommending to council to keep the current speed limit.

"I guess I look at it and I think, 'Well, if optimal safety is achieved at 30, then to say 35 would be to acknowledge that we would want something that is less than optimal safety,'" Charlottesville Vice Mayor Kristin Szakos said.

The city's study takes into consideration a number of factors, like the number of driveways on the road, the access for pedestrians and bicyclists, and on-street parking.

City staff says lowering the speed limit to 25 mph is not supported by a traffic engineering study. The report says lowering the speed limit to 30 mph would provide relief, but there are no other posted speed limits of 30 mph within city limits.

"I have a hard time with that, to say we know that it's not optimally safe," Szakos said.

Should city council approve the reduced speed limits, changes could come to other roads in the city.

"It's certainly something that sets a precedent for checking the others with traffic studies," Szakos said.

Other roads that could be considered are:

- Avon Street from the corporate limit to Druid Avenue,
- Barracks Road from the corporate limit to Millmont Street,
- Fifth Street from the corporate limit to Cherry Avenue, and
- Emmet Street from Ivy Road to Hydraulic Road.

The speed limit on Emmet Street, for example, is currently 40 mph. If council approves the change for JPA, councilors can easily ask for a traffic study for Emmet Street and consider a lower speed limit.

Drivers say it wouldn't make much difference and potentially cause more traffic.

"Speed limits should be variable based on conditions in general, and that's a hard thing to pull off in practice," one Emmet Street driver said.

"There's nothing automatic," Szakos explained. "It's not like if you do one, it changes them all like certain zoning things can be."

The first reading of the proposal will take place Monday night at the city council meeting. Any potential changes to speed limits wouldn't happen for at least months.

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