Cars are made to go fast, so it can be a real buzzkill when drivers have to halt on side streets after zipping along highways.
But what’s the difference between 25 mph and 35 mph, and why do some two-lane roads have one speed limit while others are higher?
That question arose in a Facebook comment on The Daily Herald’s page in a post about the First Street bypass opening earlier this month in Marysville.
After more than a decade of planning and 1½ years of construction, Marysville’s First Street bypass opened to traffic Friday.
Posted by Everett Herald on Saturday, October 3, 2020
Andrew McKenzie of Granite Falls wrote “everything in Marysville is engineered to be 35 (mph), but the speed limit is set at 25 (mph) for reasons only known to Marysville.”
There are plenty of roads in Marysville with speed limits faster than 25 mph, including state highways through town. Washington State Department of Transportation engineering staff approve any speed limit changes on state routes and require city councils to adopt state route speed limits through their cities, per state law.
A couple of city road examples: State Avenue/Smokey Point Boulevard is 30 mph south of 100th St. NE, then increases to 35 mph and 40 mph going north.
But a lot factors into a road’s speed limit. Design standards, design vehicles, the Revised Code of Washington, the comprehensive plan, freight and transit use, nearby development, traffic counts, collision history, pedestrian and bicycle counts and plans, are just some of the criteria.
“Many of the city speed limits have been established for years to decades,” Marysville traffic engineer Jesse Hannahs said in an email. “Only on the occasions when it is determined after review that a speed limit is unsafe or not successful is a roadway speed limit re-evaluated.”
Speed limit consistency to and from roads adjacent to the First Street bypass was one factor for its 25 mph cap, he said.
State law lets cities adjust speed limits.
Marysville city code dedicates a chapter to traffic rules, including several entries about speed. It caps stretches of State Avenue at 30 mph and all alleyways at 10 mph. The city can adjust speed limits if an engineering and traffic investigation finds they are greater or less than is “reasonable and safe under the conditions…,” per Marysville Municipal Code 11.04.037.
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