By Joshua Maloni
The New York State Department of Transportation has denied the Village of Lewiston’s request to lower the speed limit on Center Street from 30 mph to 25 mph.
In written correspondence sent Wednesday, NYS DOT Region 5 Regional Director Frank Cirillo, SR/WA, wrote, in part, “The need for a reduced speed limit is based on a thorough evaluation of many factors, including roadway characteristics, roadside development, and a statistical analysis of prevailing speeds as determined by radar checks. The majority of motorists drive at a speed which they perceive to be reasonable and prudent for existing conditions. Experience has shown that if there is no apparent reason for driving at a reduced speed, the posting of signs with an arbitrarily lower speed limit does not result in voluntary compliance by the majority of drivers. Thus, the lower speed limit results in larger speed differentials which can make the road less safe.
“Generally, the 85th percentile speed and the 10-mile pace are the predominant factors in determining the appropriate speed limit. The 85th percentile speed is that speed at or below which 85 percent of all vehicles travel. The 10-mile pace is that ten mile per hour speed interval that includes the greatest number of vehicles. In the case of Route 18F, the 85th percentile speed was found to be 33 mph. The 10-mile pace was 26-35 mph with 94 percent of the traffic within the pace. Forty-four percent of the traffic exceeded the existing 30 mph speed limit and 95 percent exceeded 25 mph. Any potential reduced speed limit value should not place more than one-third of the traffic in technical violation of said value. Based on the data we obtained, we will not recommend lowering the speed limit on Route 18F at this time. If conditions change in the future, we would be glad to re-evaluate this decision.”
Village of Lewiston Mayor Anne Welch said, “I am very disappointed that the NYS DOT did not approve our request to lower the speed limit on Center Street from 30 mph to 25 mph. The recent reconstruction and repaving of Center Street has created a very smooth highway. With the removal of the old crosswalks (speed bumps), people no longer slow down at the crosswalks.
“We have a pedestrian-friendly village, and pedestrian safety is always a concern. The problem is that, if the speed limit is 30 mph, the motorists go 35 or 40. Hopefully, the people will obey the 30-mph speed limit.
“The village streets remain at 25 mph.”
NYS DOT officially received a request to lower the speed limit to 25 mph on Sept. 29. At that time, a traffic study was initiated.
The Village Board’s request came following a Sept. 6 vote in favor of lowering the speed limit across the municipality. That action was emboldened by an Aug. 12 legislative action taken by Gov. Kathy Hochul to “enhance street safety, prevent traffic-related fatalities, and crack down on hit-and-run incidents.” A.1007-A/S.2021-A gives municipalities the ability to reduce the speed limit to 25 miles per hour.
Center Street is a state-owned thoroughfare. Though Welch said it was her understanding Hochul’s ruling would provide the opportunity to change the speed limit, Cirillo told her “state highways remain subject to engineering study for such.”
At the end of September, the village’s Department of Public Works changed the speed limit signs across the municipality.
When asked then for comment on the speed reduction, Lewiston Police Department Chief Frank Previte said, “I am in agreement with it – and, matter of fact, I would be fine if it was 20. I, myself, drive pretty much 20 down Center Street. There’s 12 crosswalks between the entrance of the village and all the way down to Fourth Street. That is a lot of crosswalks for that amount of space.
“So, yes, I do believe it should be lowered. Just for safety reasons, I don’t think at 30 that you’re going to stop. We’ve already had accidents anyway. But I don’t think at 30 you’re going to stop for people if they jump out into the road.”
Previte explained lowering the speed limit by 5 mph would shave the braking distance by more than 30 feet.