Gainesville moving ahead on speed limit changes

The city continues to move forward with its plans to lower speed limits on city streets to 30 mph but has abandoned, for now, plans to study flashing yellow turn signals, center turn lanes and right-on-red rules.

The Gainesville City Commission asked city staff in January to start the process of lowering speed limits on neighborhood roads to 20 mph and to drop all other city streets to 30 mph.

As part of that meeting, the commission also asked the staff to study the safety of intersections where cars are allowed to turn left on a flashing yellow arrow and to look at the potential impact of eliminating center turn lanes and right turns on red traffic lights.

Malisa McCreedy, the city’s director of transportation, updated the commission at Thursday’s general policy committee about the traffic change requests.

While state law allows the speed limits on neighborhood roads to be lowered to 20 mph under certain conditions, the city would have to complete a $150,000 traffic study first, McCreedy said. However, a traffic study completed in 2001 allowed the city to set a 25 mph limit on all residential streets and a 30 mph limit on other streets.

McCreedy said that some city streets had speed limit signs higher than 30 mph and that her staff was investigating why they weren’t already signed at 30 mph.

While the city can set speed limits on city-owned roads, other roads in town are county- and state-controlled. Gainesville sent letters to Alachua County and the Florida Department of Transportation on Feb. 17, asking them to lower the speed limit to 30 mph on the portions of county and state roads that run through Gainesville.

Studying all the flashing yellow arrow signals throughout the city would cost the city $525,000, while a traffic study to eliminate the right turn on red and the center turn lanes would cost $5.5 million, McCreedy said.

Vision Zero Projects Supplemental Funding Request map

Currently, the city looks at intersection crash data, including injuries and fatalities, and reviews whether traffic signals could be changed to improve safety, McCreedy said.

At Thursday’s meeting the commission did not approve funding for the traffic or signal studies, but did approve $1.25 million for five Vision Zero projects and OK’d the hiring of two additional people to help the city manage its traffic-related projects.

The money for the Vision Zero projects comes out of the city’s designated general government set-aside from their federal American Rescue Plan (ARPA) allotment.

The commission also approved adding $500,000 in annual maintenance funds to the next fiscal year’s tentative budget plan.

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