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Intercity speed limit drop being eyed again

Star survey asks for your opinion

 

Last updated 8/30/2021 at 4:32pm



The speed limit between Electric City and Grand Coulee, currently at 45 miles per hour, could drop to 30 with the construction of a new pedestrian/bike pathway. The Star would like to know whether you want the speed limit lowered.

With pedestrians regularly traveling the stretch of road, a pathway is seen as a way to give them a safe place to walk or ride their bikes.

In 2018, the project was accepted for a $672,410 grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation with a 5%, $35,390 match from Electric City.

​​The original pedestrian/bike path project proposal stated that around 20 people bike on the stretch per day, 30 people per day walk it, and that at times of high traffic (such as the Colorama festival) there have been an estimated 3,300 vehicles driving on that stretch in a single day.

The pathway, projected to be built in 2022, will go between the highway and Banks Lake, from the Coulee Playland area to the Banks Lake Park area.

Although currently things are a bit dangerous for those walking or bicycling that stretch of road, it may not be until there is a safer pathway — on the other side of a guardrail from traffic — when the speed may get lowered.

Including a reduced speed limit from 35 to 30 along Coulee Boulevard through the main part of Electric City, a reduced speed limit from 45 to 30 mph would create a consistent speed on SR-155 from Coulee Dam to Grand Coulee to Electric City. 

A reduction in the speed limit along that stretch of highway was denied by the state DOT in 2017.

Back then, George Stuart of the DOT explained that speed limits are based on what feels natural to a driver.

“A speed limit set below what most drivers consider a reasonable speed will receive poor compliance,” he said. “If constant enforcement is required to force drivers to comply with the speed limit, that speed limit is likely too low. … Our top priority is safety and a lower speed limit does not necessarily guarantee a safer highway.”

Explaining a study done on that stretch of highway, Stuart said that “in the 45 mph section of SR-155 that was the subject of our study, the radar speed data indicated an 85 percentile speed of 48 mph.”

Stuart also referenced the crash history in that area, where there had been eight crashes in 10 years, but “only two of the crashes indicated that speed was a factor, one of which was ice on the roadway and the other was driver inattention.”

But now, the DOT would reconsider lowering the limit if a pathway is built, as has been explained at past council meetings by Steve Nelson from Century West Engineers, the city’s engineering firm who is designing the path.

With a pathway there, the DOT will reevaluate the speed limit situation, Nelson explained to The Star on Tuesday, adding that they are looking at the designs for the path.

Some people like a higher speed limit, however, including Councilmember Cate Slater. She said back in October of 2020 that she preferred driving a little faster there, referring to the thrill of going a little bit faster as her “poor man’s tune-up.”

Others think it’s too darn fast! Or they simply want to be able to drive their golf carts and ATVs all through the local towns.

Ron Pulsipher spoke on the topic at the Aug. 10 Electric City council meeting. If the speed limit were lowered, he said, he could get groceries in his ATV down in Coulee Dam if he so wanted.

He expressed frustration with the speed limits changing so much along the highway. He’d also like the speed limit lowered all the way to the golf course, making owning your own cart more justifiable if you could drive it out there.

Pulsipher has been a proponent of lowered speed limits in the Coulee area for several years, and has spoken at multiple council meetings in local towns.

The city can request the DOT lower the speed limit or keep it the same, but Nelson said it’s ultimately the DOT’s decision. 

The current council and mayor ran on wanting to accurately represent the will of the people, and in January, the city held an informational meeting to engage with its citizens on a variety of topics.

On the topic of changing the speed limit, several comments from citizens supported the idea, while several others opposed it.

Two comments expressed excitement that lowering the speed limit between Electric City and Grand Coulee would allow ATVs to travel between the two towns, while another comment was against that altogether.

“Keep at 45! No ATVs!” that comment reads.

One person said that a pathway, being on the other side of the guardrail, would make pedestrians safer, negating the need to lower the speed limit. 

The speed limit along SR-155 heading downhill from Grand Coulee to Coulee Dam, near Pole Park and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation fire station, changed from 40 to 30 mph in November of 2016, and was unpopular among many locals.

The Star posted a survey online asking you what you think about the idea of lowering the speed limit between Grand Coulee and Electric City. 

That survey can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/C6Q9SVF, on our website at http://www.grandcoulee.com.

 

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