City wants to speed up M.L. King traffic

City wants to speed up M.L. King traffic

November 5th, 2009 by Cliff Hightower in News

Staff photo by Allison Kwesell The City Council is considering changing the speed limit on MLK Boulevard from 25 miles per hour to 35 miles per hour.

A change to speed limits on M.L. King Boulevard might mean posting signs that reflect how fast people actually are driving, the city's traffic engineer said Wednesday.

"They are totally ignoring the speed limit," said Traffic Engineer John Van Winkle.

The posted speed limit on M.L. King Boulevard now stands at 25 mph, five miles per hour less than other downtown roads. Mr. Van Winkle proposed to the City Council this week that the speed limit be raised to 30 mph on M.L. King between Georgia Avenue and Palmetto Street and 35 mph between Palmetto Street and Central Avenue.

No one drives 25 miles per hour down the stretch of road now, Mr. Van Winkle said. His department conducted a series of studies on the road the past two years and found most people drove between 35 and 40 miles per hour on the road, he said.

"Nobody did the speed limit," Mr. Van Winkle said.

The City Council will be looking at the speed limit change in the coming weeks.

But not everyone agrees that raising the speed limit is the answer. Troy Bage, vice president of the M.L. King Neighborhood Association and a boulevard resident, said families live on the street with children and pets.

"We do not want any increases whatsoever," he said.

Any speed increase would mean people would drive even faster on the road, Mr. Bage said. Drivers now go 40 to 45 mph, he said, and if the speed limit was raised to 35 mph it could mean speeds approaching 50 miles per hour in the residential neighborhood.

City Councilman Andraé McGary, who represents the district, said he could be comfortable with a uniform 30 mph from Georgia Avenue to Central Avenue. He said he does not want the speed limit set at 35 mph in a residential neighborhood.

"An average speed in a residential neighborhood is 30 mph," Mr. McGary said.

Plans call for revitalization of the boulevard and, if more businesses and people move into the area, faster speeds could mean problems for bicyclists and pedestrians, he said.

Business owners along M.L. King gave mixed reviews about the proposed changes. James Massengill, co-owner of Chatt Smokehouse, said he did not think there are enough postings of the current speed limit on the road.

He would be in favor of raising the speed limit, he said, but right now the road is a "speed trap."

"They make a mint off people who just don't know," Mr. Massengill said.

Seth Champion, owner of Champy's Famous Fried Chicken, said if the speed limit was raised people would go even faster.

"They already fly through here anyway," he said. "You don't want that speed limit going up. The slower, the better."

Powerpoint: MLK speed limit

SPEED CHANGE

City officials proposed raising the speed limit on M.L. King Boulevard to 30 mph between Georgia Avenue and Palmetto Street and 35 mph between Palmetto Street and Central Avenue.