By Joshua Maloni
Mayor Anne Welch said the Village of Lewiston intends to take advantage of a new state law and lower the municipal speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph.
A vote could occur as soon as the Sept. 6 work session.
“Not everybody's going to go 25, because not everybody goes 30, but, hopefully, it'll slow people down a little bit,” Welch said. “Some will abide by it, and the others that don't now, maybe they'll slow it down a little bit. It has to help more than not.”
She added, “I think it’s a good thing – and especially now that those (Center Street) crosswalks are gone, because people used to slow down because they were bumpy. Now they’ve got the straight shot, because the pavement is nice.”
On Aug. 12, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a legislative package her team said would “enhance street safety, prevent traffic-related fatalities, and crack down on hit-and-run incidents.” Specifically, A.1007-A/S.2021-A now allows municipalities to reduce speed limits to 25 miles per hour. A companion piece, A.3964/S.9163, intends to “deter hit and run incidents and enhance public safety by increasing fines for leaving the scene of a car crash without reporting it.”
Hochul said, "Every New Yorker deserves to feel safe when traveling on our streets, whether they are driving, cycling, or walking. These new laws will help prevent senseless tragedies and injuries by cracking down on erratic and irresponsible driving.”
With regard to lowering the speed limit, Hochul’s team said, “Research shows that faster driving speeds correlate to more serious injuries and fatalities for pedestrians in the event of a crash. Under current law, the default maximum speed limit throughout a city, town or village may not be set lower than 30 mph. By giving municipalities local control to reduce speed limits, this legislation will improve public safety and prevent pedestrian fatalities.”
In February 2019, trustees voted in favor of petitioning New York State Sen. Rob Ortt and Assemblyman Angelo Morinello to sponsor bills providing a “home rule” provision for the Village Board to lower the speed limit on Center Street to 25 mph. The roadway belongs to the New York State Department of Transportation. That agency twice denied a request for change, stating 30 mph is appropriate for the thoroughfare.
The matter was still to be decided when it discussed again a year later. Just a few weeks later, however, the coronavirus pandemic began, and the topic was put on the backburner.
At that time, Morinello said he supported the idea of lowering the speed limit on Center Street, and would “work as hard as I can" to convince the DOT to reconsider.” Ortt, meanwhile, wrote NFP and stated, “Ensuring that pedestrians can walk through the Village of Lewiston safely has its benefits from both a public safety and also an economic standpoint. We want to encourage residents and visitors to park their cars, travel Center Street by foot, and visit businesses with the peace of mind that they are able to do so in a safer manner. If the village believes that lowering the speed limit will help achieve this, then I support their efforts."
Welch said she’s informed the DOT that new speed limit signs will be required for Center Street. She also asked the Lewiston Police Department to ready electronic signs to notify motorists of the change.
On Monday, the Village Board voted to slow down traffic by adding stop signs at the intersections of Center and Water (north/south), Plain and Niagara (south), and Cayuga and South Fourth streets (north/south).
Welch said Department of Public Works Superintendent Larry Wills is on vacation this week, but “as soon as he gets back, he will order the signs, and then we’ll install them.”