Rochester’s city engineer was given the authority to set city speed limits Monday, but he was also told not to move too fast.
In approving an ordinance change that allows the city engineer to make adjustments based on an established criteria, the Rochester City Council also passed a resolution that does not allow speeds to be set below 25 mph on existing residential streets.
“I realize 25 (mph) is a bit of a compromise, but sometimes good policy comes from compromise,” council member Nick Campion said, adding that he supports an eventual move to lower speed limits.
Public works staff initially proposed reducing speed limits on nearly 64% of the city’s streets — primarily residential streets — to 20 mph, while reducing others to 25 mph and keeping some at 30 mph, based on traffic patterns.
The proposal followed legislative action authorizing cities to establish a plan for setting speed limits, rather than following statewide limits.
In order to avoid requiring the council to vote on each change, Public Works staff proposed allowing the city engineer to set limits based on criteria aimed at producing safer streets.
In the end, only Council President Randy Staver and council member Mark Bilderback opposed the move, citing a potential lack of oversight.
“I do have a concern with taking the governing body somewhat out of the equation,” Staver said, pointing to what could be a lack of review for speed limit changes.
City Engineer Dillon Dombrovski answered a similar concern from Mayor Kim Norton, who has stated opposition to a 20 mph limit.
Dombrovski said the Public Works goal would be to abide by the will of the council.
“We don’t have any plans to try to make a change from that,” he said.
While the speed on established residential streets is expected to drop to 25 mph, newly or reconstructed residential streets are expected to be designed for 20 mph speed limits, according to the resolution approved Monday.
Campion said controlling speed limits is linked to street design as much as it is to posting signs and enforcement. He said future efforts will help make future streets safer with reduced speeds.
“Hopefully, over time, we will get there,” he said.