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GF looks at higher speed limits

Some of Grand Forks' arterials could see a speed limit increase if City Council members agree to city staff recommendations. The single biggest change would be on Belmont Road, used by many commuters from the south end to go to work farther north...

2023SenRummel.jpg
Sen. Dean Rummel, R-Dickinson
/ North Dakota Legislative Branch

Some of Grand Forks' arterials could see a speed limit increase if City Council members agree to city staff recommendations.

The single biggest change would be on Belmont Road, used by many commuters from the south end to go to work farther north. Speed limits would increase over an almost 3½ mile stretch from 62nd Avenue South to 13th Avenue South.

Other speed increases would affect, among others, parts of South Washington Street, Gateway Drive and North 42nd Street, where the limit could increase by 5 miles per hour. One short section of North 42nd could see the limit decrease by 10 mph.

City Traffic Engineer Jane Williams is reporting to the Safety Committee today her study of traffic on some of Grand Forks' busiest streets.

The speed limits posted on the streets, she said in the study, are more appropriate for residential streets than main thoroughfares. This may reflect their origins, in some cases, in less developed and less traveled areas.

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Historically, she said, posted speed limits do not have significant impact on driving speed. The majority of drivers base their speed on the driving environment itself, such as road conditions. That is, most drive at speeds they feel are safe.

The rule of thumb for traffic engineers is that 85 percent of drivers drive at reasonable speeds and 15 percent at excessive speeds, she said. Studies show that it's the 15 percent that cause most of the crashes. As a result, speed limits are usually set at the speed that 85 percent of drivers drive below.

Using the 85 percentile rule, Williams found that, for example, most drivers on South Washington drive at or slower than 34 mph between Demers Avenue and 17th Avenue South. The posted speed limit is 30 mph.

Posting lower speed limits, she said, doesn't improve safety because it creates conflict between those driving at speeds they think are reasonable and those trying to obey the speed limit, which could lead to tailgating and weaving.

Below is a list of the streets where Williams is recommending a speed limit change, starting with the current speed limit to the proposed speed limit. None of them affect existing school speed zones.

North-south

- North 42nd Street, DeMers to University Avenue: 40 mph to 30 mph.

- North 42nd, University to Gateway: 30 mph to 35 mph.

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- South Washington from 17th to DeMers: From 30 mph currently to a proposed 35 mph.

- South Washington, DeMers to Gateway: From 30 mph to 35 mph.

- Belmont, 13th Avenue South to 47th Avenue South: 25 mph to 30 mph.

- Belmont, 47th Avenue South to 62nd Avenue South: 30 mph to 35 mph.

East-west

- Gateway, North Columbia Road to Washington: 30 mph to 35 mph.

- Gateway, Washington to Red River: 30 mph to 35 mph.

- 11th Avenue South, South 34th Street to South 42nd Street: 25 mph to 30 mph.

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- 17th Avenue South, South 34th to South 42nd: 25 mph to 30 mph.

- 24th Avenue South, Columbia Road to South 38th Street: 25 mph to 30 mph.

Reach Tran at (701) 780-1248; (800) 477-6572, ext. 248; or send e-mail to ttran@gfherald.com .

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