Monday, May 14, 2012

Riverdale City - Staff now responsible for setting speed limits

By Deanne Winterton

Standard-Examiner correspondent

Sun, 05/13/2012 - 9:54pm

RIVERDALE — Who has the authority to set speed limits in Riverdale? After years of debate, the Riverdale City Council passed an amended code specifying that the responsibility rests with city staff rather than the city council.

“Traffic regulations are a matter of documented technical expertise and not public opinion or politics,” Councilman Mike Staten said in an email. “I think it is not the proper place for a political body to presume to know more than a trained experienced professional.”

The council passed the amendment unanimously.

In 2010, city staff administratively increased the speed limit from 25 to 30 mph on 700 West, based on traffic studies, expert recommendation and the request of residents.

It lasted only a few weeks until council members wondered why the change was made without their knowledge. The council changed the speed limit back to 25 mph.

In 2011, the council discussed the issue again, considering increasing speed limits on 700 West as well as north and southbound traffic on Parker Drive.

Councilman Norm Searle commented on the need to eliminate tailgating on Parker Drive.

“There are prescribed methods for setting speed limits and experts should apply these methods with consistency and uniformity based on the classification of the street and design characteristics of the street,” Staten said. “Failing to follow generally accepted practices opens the city up to criticism if not liability.”

Although professionals know best how to set speed limits, residents bring their concerns to their council representative first, Councilman Don Hunt said.

In order to handle such inquiries, Hunt asked that staff keep the council informed when they make any changes to city streets.

“That’s common courtesy, so you are not blindsided by the public,” Mayor Bruce Burrows said.

“Let us (city staff) take the responsibility for doing it right,” City Administrator Larry Hansen said. “We are willing to take this responsibility.”