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City of Woodbury to lawmakers: Let us set our own speed limits

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news Woodbury, 55125
Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

Woodbury is hoping an “unsession” is the right time to ask for more control over local speed limits.

Since Gov. Mark Dayton declared the 2014 legislative session as the “unsession” to eliminate redundant laws, Woodbury decided to take a stab at trying to eliminate state control over speed limits for local, nonresidential streets.

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Speeds for city streets like Valley Creek, Lake, Tamarack and Hudson roads, are set by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) under state law.

Each time the city needs to change a speed limit, MnDOT must conduct a study to determine what the safe and reasonable speed is.

“We believe this responsibility should rest with the local jurisdiction except for state highways, as is the case in most states,” City Administrator Clint Gridley said. “When we get citizen concerns in regard to established speed limits, the city can do nothing other than request that MnDOT perform a speed study.”

The city has received several concerns regarding speed on various city streets including Lake and Valley Creek roads, which have speed limits ranging from 35 to 50 mph.

A speed study would look at visibility, the number of driveways, access and intersections as well as driving behavior, Public Works Director Klayton Eckles said.

“They might actually find out the speed ought to be raised, not lowered,” he said. “The state doesn’t want to create speed limits that create a whole bunch of law breakers.”

In fact, the speed limit was raised on Century Avenue, a county road, after a construction project was complete and a study found that raising it to 45 mph was the right way to go.

“I don’t think anybody in Woodbury was excited to see that speed go up,” Eckles said.

The general consensus is that local speeds need to be lowered in order to get the feeling of a parkway rather than a “raceway,” he added.

Engineers have been working with the state on issues with Lake Road since it runs the entire length of the city with speeds varying from 35 to 45 mph.

Oftentimes it’s difficult to reduce a speed limit when there is not a lot of accident history, Eckles said.

“Well, if there is no accident and no design issues d everybody is driving at 45,” he explained, “the state might actually want to raise the speed there because they don’t want people essentially disrespecting the speed limit.”

Though Woodbury would like to have local authority over these issues, Eckles said there is a benefit in having consistent speed limits across all cities under state law.

“When you’re crossing city boundaries you’re not getting into cities that have different speeds creating issues for drivers,” he said. “There is some benefit to the way it’s done now, but the city has virtually no say in setting speed in our city right now.”

Gridley said now is as good time as any to submit this proposal along with the rest of the city’s legislative agenda.

“This seems a good area to fulfill the ‘unsession’ goals and eliminate an area of state involvement and expense and have local units of government set speed limits,” he said. “Much like they do other ordinances and traffic regulations.”

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