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Metro Council to consider reducing neighborhood speed limits from 30 to 25 mph

Posted at 4:32 PM, Feb 05, 2019

NASHVILLE, TENN. (WTVF) — If you're hit by a car at 30 miles per hour, your chance of severe injury is 50 percent, according to AAA.

But reduce the speed to just under 25 miles per hour, and that cuts that chance in half.

One of the bills in front of Metro Council members Tuesday is a plan to cut the speed limit on a large percentage of Nashville roads, known as "local roads." That's a term referring to smaller, residential streets that do not serve as major cut-throughs and do not link to interstates or larger roads.

They're the streets where Nashville families live.

"We're seeing a continued high level of pedestrian crashes, a lot of folks don't feel comfortable walking in their neighborhood and we have a ton of streets that don’t have sidewalks," said Walk Bike Nashville Executive Director Nora Kern.

Walk Bike Nashville is promoting the bill which already has 8 council members listed as co-sponsors. It goes before the full council for a first reading Tuesday night.

If it passes all three readings, Public Works would be in charge of making the change happen county-wide.

"There's no question speeding increases crashes," said Public Works Assistant Director Jeff Hammond, "and the crashes that do occur become more severe."

It's an issue Hammond says they've already looked at in three walking districts across town as part of a a pilot program that reduced speed limits in Cleveland Park, Hillsboro West End and Una Antioch and measured if it made a difference.

"Overall, we saw a decrease in average speeds in 20 of the 29 site where we collected data," Hammond said.

He says the impact of the change would be widespread - around 65 percent of the streets in the county are classified as local streets. However drivers spend the majority of their commute on much larger roads, and he says because of that overall drive times wouldn't change.

The biggest hurdle may be the logistics involved.

"We think we’ve got about 2,000 to 3,000 speed limit signs all over the county (on local roads) and those of course would have to be replaced," Hammond said, noting that the cost could total $300,000 to $400,000.

"It's doable," he said, "it's not millions of dollars."

Traffic Anchor Rebecca Schleicher reached out to the Mayor's office to hear what Mayor Briley thought of the idea.

Here's the response:

"The Mayor agrees that Metro’s policy on posted speed limits for local roads needs periodic review to ensure they’re appropriate. The Traffic and Parking Commission plays an important role in reviewing and facilitating public input on speed limits, and we’re pleased to see the Council’s leadership in initiating a community-wide discussion on this issue."

Walk Bike Nashville says this is just the start.

"It's not gonna solve all the problems," said Walk Bike Director Kern, "but it’s a really great first step."

She says several neighborhood associations are also on board, and she's hoping for larger roads to make the change in the future, along with new infrastructure to help calm traffic.

The bill would give Public Works 90 days to come up with a plan to make the changeover.

If the bill gets through the first reading, it will go to the Public Works committee in two weeks time.

Ultimate approval rests with the Traffic and Parking Commission, which decides speed limits for Metro Nashville roads.

Kern sits on that commission but says she will recuse herself from the related proceedings.