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Transportation

Lower Speed Limits Slow To Roll Out On Austin's Residential Streets

A person walks a dog near a 25 mph speed limit sign.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
The city has installed 25 mph street signs in only eight neighborhoods so far after a City Council vote last June to lower them.

Almost a year after the Austin City Council voted to lower speed limits, most of the 30 mile per hour speed limit signs on residential streets have yet to be switched out for new ones that say 25.

The council's vote in June 2020 followed a yearlong traffic study by the city that concluded speed limit reductions would be "safe and prudent." The city considered research showing 5% of pedestrians struck by a vehicle traveling at 20 mph die, compared to 45% at 30 mph.

The Austin's Transportation Department says it has already changed speed limit signs on about 18 major thoroughfares in Central Austin. Those new limits are 30, 35 or 45 mph. ATD changed signs on another 20 or so quasi-residential streets and a few dozen downtown streets to 25 mph.

But most of Austin's street network is made up of narrower "neighborhood streets," defined by the city as being less than 40 feet wide from curb to curb. Speed limits on those streets are being lowed to 25 mph. There's no estimate of how long replacing the signs will take or how much it will cost.

ATD has installed 25 mph street signs in only eight neighborhoods so far:

  • Las Cimas
  • Northridge Park
  • North Shoal Creek
  • Wooten
  • Windsor Park
  • Tarrytown
  • Summit Street
  • Goodnight Ranch

"It's really just a small fraction of the overall need in the city," Austin Transportation Department Managing Engineer Eric Bollich said. "I think as we complete a few more, we'll probably be able to better estimate the total time and number of signs we need."

Complicating matters, ATD does not want to rely entirely on its database of speed limit signs.

"While we do have information, we don't want to solely rely on information we have just in case we find more or less is needed," Bollich said. "There might be more information, more signs that we might have to change."

Under state law, police can't enforce the lower speed limits until the new signs are posted.

A bill by State Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin) would have given municipalities the option, with a vote of council, to declare a 25 mph residential speed limit without having to post a sign on every street. The bill was voted out of a House committee but the legislative session ended before the full House could vote on it.

Corrected: June 2, 2021 at 11:41 AM CDT
This story has been corrected to reflect a different bill in the Legislature that addressed speed limits on city streets.
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