Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Speed limits raised in Bellevue

City concedes to pressure from state


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

The city of Bellevue has decided to raise a posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour along stretches of state Highway 75 to 35 mph. Photo by Mountain Express

Bellevue City Council members have reversed a decision to lower speed limits at the northern and southern ends of the city from 35 miles per hour to 25 mph.

In April of 2007, after three years of studies and discussions with the Idaho Transportation Department, the council passed an ordinance setting the maximum speed within city limits at 25 mph. This meant lowering the speed limit on state Highway 75 by 10 mph at points within the town south of Gannett Road and north of Atkinsons' Valley Market. Following the reversal, the speed limit signs were changed back to 35 mph two weeks ago.

Bellevue Planning and Zoning Administrator Craig Eckles said the reversal took place in spite of public support for the lower speed limits, which were implemented in part to accommodate a Highway 75 crosswalk at the northern end of town.

"Ninety-nine percent of the public comment was in favor of the changes," he said.

Bellevue City Administrator Tom Blanchard said the city had been in discussions with ITD for quite some time about lowering the speed limits in the city for safety reasons. "Sometimes you have to test the waters in the community by trying something like this," said Blanchard. "Then you get feedback from the community and change it again."

In September, state Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, asked the City Council to reconsider the 25-mph speed limit through the city. She implied that if the city did not return to the previously posted speed limit, it may cause a law in the Idaho Legislature that allows Idaho cities to set their own speed limits to be overturned. The law, which Jaquet introduced, is known as "Wendy's Law" by members of the ITD, including Bruce Christiansen, a traffic engineer with ITD.

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"There is a concern that cities create 'speed traps' by lowering speed limits unrealistically," said Christiansen. "These can be big money-makers for cities."

Jaquet also agreed with retired Ketchum Police Chief Cal Nevland, who told the council that the extended 25-mph speed limit was unfair to commuters passing through the city. Nevland said that if speeds are too slow, people tend to become less attentive.

The speed limit signs in the city have been changed from 25 mph to 35 mph going south at Wood River Meadows (just beyond Gannett Road) and going north at Kirtley Street (just past the Sun Valley Garden Center). Both speed zones change to 45 mph outside of the city limits.






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