by CHRIS ROGERS
The speed limit on Lake Park Drive could soon be lowered to 20 miles per hour, down from 30. In response to speeding complaints, Winona city staff studied traffic on the parkway and proposed the rule change. The Winona City Council will vote on whether to lower the speed limit on Monday.
City Council member George Borzyskowski raised concerns in May about speeding in Lake Park, especially by the popular new playground, and suggested lowering the limit. In response, city staff conducted a traffic study over six days and three locations in the park.
That study found that 85 percent of vehicles drove under 27 miles per hour by the new playground. However, just to the west at Lake Park Drive and Washington Street, an average of 71 vehicles a day sped at over 35 miles per hour. During the study, five drivers tore through the park at over 50 miles per hour, with two of them exceeding 65 miles per hour. “I was surprised to see that many people going that fast,” Winona City Engineer Ryan Meiners said.
Meiners recommended that the City Council lower the speed limit to 20 miles per hour, and cited a 2017 Boston, Mass., case study. In Boston, lowering the speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour had little effect on the average speed of traffic overall, but cut the number of vehicles speeding at over 35 miles per hour by 29 percent, according to Meiners.
Some drivers will not speed more than 10 miles over the limit, the thinking goes. Meiners believes a lower speed limit can change the behavior of a significant number of people, if not everyone. “The biggest thing we’re looking for is, by lowering that speed limit to 20 is, we’re hoping and pretty much expecting that those people in the 35-40 range, we’re hoping to get them in the 25-30 range,” he said. “I honestly don’t know if we’ll get people going 20, but if we can get those higher speeders going slower, that would really help.”
Would lowering the speed limit change the behavior of worst speeders — those already going 20 miles or more over the limit? “Probably not,” Meiners responded. “If you’re comfortable going 65 or 70, I don’t know if a lower speed limit gets you going slower,” he said. “I mean the biggest thing, obviously, for that is going to be enforcement,” Meiners continued. “Will [the rule change] help? Maybe. Maybe it’ll get people going a different route with a lower speed limit there.”
The Winona Police Department patrols Lake Park and has made efforts to step up enforcement in the past, but City Manager Steve Sarvi said in May, “We haven’t had much success catching speeders.”
The Winona City Council will meet to vote on the proposed speed limit change at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, June 21, in the council chambers on the third floor of city hall at 207 Lafayette Street. Citizens may also join the meeting by videoconference by clicking here and entering the meeting ID, 896 465 916, and password, 207207. Contact information for council members is available at www.cityofwinona.com/319/City-Council-Mayor.