The Monticello City Council rejected an opportunity to decrease the speed limit on some city streets at its Monday, Dec. 14 meeting.
The ability for city government bodies to decrease speed limits comes after a 2019 change in Minnesota State Statutes under which the Minnesota Legislature granted cities the ability to implement 25 m.p.h. speed limits if certain criteria is met. Streets must be residential, they cannot be collector streets, and signage must be put in place.
The City Council looked at two options regarding the decreasing of speed limits to 25 mph on a number of city streets. One option would have resulted in changes requiring 54 new speed limit signs and a second option requiring 81 new speed limit signs. But by the time discussion was done, the Council opted to taken no action on the speed limit reductions. The Council wants clear information on the impact of a speed limit change and data related to safety before voting on permanent speed limit reductions. The motion passed on a 3-2 vote with Council members Bill Fair and Charlotte Gabler recording the dissenting votes.
The issue first came up in August 2020 when the city staff was given a directive by the Council to begin planning for changes in speed limits on residential city streets. Changes were not to occur in the city’s business districts or in the downtown area or other areas that are not zoned residential, according to the August directive.
Since August, city staff has been working on a policy that would be developed to analyze the possible move to 25 m.p.h. residential speed limits. That includes studying present and future roadway classifications to determine if a street would qualify for a change in speed limit. The analysis also included a study of existing signage so updating or removal of signs could be completed.
According to the City of Monticello, Option 1 included implementing a 25-mph speed zone on all roadways that meet the requirements of the policy except for some roadways in the downtown core north of I-94. Other short roadway segments with no outlets were excluded as they likely would not warrant the installation of a speed limit sign. Option 1 would take approximately 54 25-mph speed limit signs to clearly delineate the speed zones.
Option 2 includes implementing a 25-mph speed zone on all eligible roadways excluding some short segments as identified in option 1. All areas with a reduced speed limit would be clearly signed to inform motorists that they are entering a reduced speed zone. This option would take approximately 81 speed limit signs to delineate the speed zones in order to adequately incorporate the residential areas in the downtown area.
City Engineer Matt Leonard supported both options but recommended the first option to the City Council due to the current limitations for cities to lower speed limits on non-residential roadways.
Community Development Director Angela Schumann recommended the second option because it would provide a consistent speed limit of 25 mph in the majority of the community’s residential neighborhoods, including the residential neighborhoods adjacent to the downtown.
Councilmember Charlotte Gabler suggested setting up a test zone with a decreased speed limit to observe the successes and challenges associated with implementing a speed limit reduction.
While the Monticello City Council opted reject making changes to city speed limits, the action left open the door for further discussion on the matter as the Council moves into 2021, City Administrator Rachel Leonard said.