North Adams officials advance plan to reduce downtown speed limit

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NORTH ADAMS — The City Council took a first step toward adopting new regulations Tuesday that would allow it to set speed limits as low as 20 mph in certain areas.

The council voted unanimously to adopt, into the city's own ordinances, state legislation that would allow the city to set speed limits of 25 mph on downtown business district roads and 20 mph in special designated safety zones.

The proposal requires a second approval from the council before it is officially adopted.

Though an important first step, adopting the state legislation does not actually change speed limits in the city. Rather, it gives the city a mechanism by which to implement lower speed limits where it sees fit.

"This is only one part to safety when it comes to traffic; this is not a silver bullet," said City Councilor Benjamin Lamb.

Increased traffic safety also requires education, infrastructure and enforcement.

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Many of the streets throughout the city, including the downtown area, have a speed limit of 30 mph by default.

Lamb cited a Boston-based study that showed, even with no additional police enforcement, lower speed limits resulted in a 2 percent reduction in speeding.

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"Regardless of the enforcement rate, these do have a positive impact," Lamb said, adding that pedestrians survive at higher rates when traffic is moving at slower speeds.

Lamb said he is waiting for data from the North Adams Police Department related to pedestrian accidents in the city.

The city could designate a 25 mph zone on any road, excluding state highways, that is within a "thickly settled or business district." It could also establish a designated safety zone with a 20 mph limit under certain conditions, including that the zone be at least one-quarter mile in length.

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After adopting the changes, Councilor Marie Harpin asked what steps are next.

Lamb said the city already has been approached by residents in areas without posted speed limits who have concerns about traffic.

Dropping the speed in these areas would be a good test-run for the effort, Lamb said, adding that the council would not be adjusting the speed of all city streets."I do not see this as something where the City Council goes out and starts auditing the city."

The proposal is expected to be voted on a second time at the council's June 11 meeting.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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