Hearing to be held on lowering the speed limit in New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– New Haven officials are talking about dropping the speed limit in some parts of the city to 20 miles per hour. We’re not talking about all city streets, but at city hall Tuesday night, they will be talking about lowering the speed limit from 25 to 20 miles per hour on some city streets.

It may seem like 25 miles per hour is slow enough, especially when you’re in a hurry, but the City of New Haven is looking at lowering some streets to 20. The city’s transportation expert says the main reason is pedestrian safety.

“At 20 miles an hour, you have a 90% chance of surviving a crash with a pedestrian and a vehicle,” explained New Haven Transportation Director Doug Hausladen. “At 40 mph, you have a 90% chance of death, so speed kills.”

Blake Street is just one of the roadways they’re looking at slowing down cars as they speed by pedestrians. That’s where we spotted Tracey Wilder.

“As you can see, I don’t wait for the light,” Wilder said. “I go across if there’s no traffic. But some of the days, yeah they should speed it down.”

Wilder walks her grandsons to a school on Blake Street. While she is definitely in favor of lower speed limits, there is one nagging question: Would a lower limit really slow down the cars?

“No, they think they’re on the highway,” said Wilder, shaking her head emphatically. “They actually think they’re on the highway.”

The State Of Connecticut agrees with Tracey Wilder. A spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Transportation said there are studies that show lowering the speed limit does nothing to actually slow cars down, and more studies show they do not have any effect on the frequency of accidents. What does help, he said, are traffic calming measures such as roundabouts, things the city is already doing.

“We’re trying our best to keep up with all the requests to calm our streets,” Hausladen said. “We need to do it from all angles – education, enforcement and engineering, and one of those is an evaluation of whether or not people are speeding in our city of New Haven.”

At tonight’s public hearing there will be a discussion about studying the streets. The idea is to only lower speeds where needed, like we already do with school zones.

“What we’d like to see is a neighborhood classification of streets where it’s 20 mph, where it’s even less than 20 mph. We have that for school speed zones,” said Hausladen.

And remember, the city of New Haven is trying to get more people to walk, ride the bus, or bike to work, and they are talking about a bike sharing program for the city. Here’s the thing, though: The city cannot lower speed limits. Only the state can, and the state does not think lower limits will help. All the city can do is propose the change and ask the state to look into it.

If you do want to come speak out, the meeting is here at city hall starting at 6 p.m.

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