Although some members said last week they’d be more than willing to put the brakes on any changes to the speed limit on Mission Avenue between Barker and Flora roads for the time being, the way looks clear for a decision next Tuesday.
The Spokane Valley City Council again debated on Nov. 29 whether or not the rural two-lane arterial should have its speed limit lowered from the existing 35 mph. Some residents of the North Greenacres neighborhood have said that traffic is moving way too fast on the two-lane road, and the new connection to the west to Sullivan Road only makes the situation worse.
While no public comments were taken on the matter last week, Inga Note, traffic engineer, said that recently completed traffic studies showed cars are travelling 38 mph or slower. According to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control, the posted speed limit should be within 5 mph of that 85th percentile speed, she said.
That being the case, Note recommended to the council that the speed limit remain at 35 mph.
“It meets the 35 mph criteria,” she said.
Council Member Arne Woodard, however, has long maintained that drivers are going to fast through that particular area.
“I still believe that 35 mph is too fast for that mile stretch of road,” he said. “We still have an issue of a lot of people and kids trying to get to their mailboxes and whatnot.”
Neil Kersten, city public works director, said speed limits don’t necessarily slow drivers down. More often than not, setting speed limits too low simply creates areas where additional law enforcement is needed. If there isn’t an increased police presence in the area, he added, then neighbors will complain to the city.
Note said she had heard from “not very many” of the residents in the area concerning the issue. However, those who have complained that the speed limit is too high have been vocal at recent council meetings.
Council Member Chuck Hafner said it was important “to look at the integrity of the neighborhood” when making a decision on the issue.
Deputy Mayor Gary Schimmels suggested waiting until construction on parallel Interstate 90 is complete before making a final decision on the speed limit of Mission Avenue. Right now, he said, there is increased traffic on the arterial to avoid the freeway roadwork.
“I’d just like the council to cool our heels and look at this in three or four months,” Schimmels said.
“That’s a good point,” Kersten said. “That will make some difference.”
Council Member Dean Grafos, however, said the council has waited long enough.
“If we set it at 30 mph, people will drive 34 instead of 38 (mph),” he said. “I don’t know why we would wait.”
Council Member Brenda Grassel said a switch from 35 to 30 mph would be a benefit to that area of the city, which has grown in recent years.
“That neighborhood has been largely affected since the incorporation of Spokane Valley,” she said.
The council will take up the subject again at its Dec. 13 meeting.