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Schenectady asks Gov. Hochul to sign bill allowing municipalities to lower speed limits

Public domain image of a speed limit sign
Public Domain image
A 30 mph speed limit sign

The City of Schenectady wants to lower its citywide speed limit to 25 miles per hour, but needs a green light from the state.

The city council passed a resolution this week urging Governor Kathy Hochul to sign legislation that would allow cities, villages, and towns to reduce speed limits from 30 to 25 miles per hour.

The legislation passed the State Senate and Assembly earlier this year.

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy hopes the change will make city streets safer.

“We’re trying to make the city more walkable, more bikeable, just pedestrian friendly. This becomes part of the messaging to get people to take notice that driving too fast is not in their interest or in the best interest of the city overall,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy said he expects drivers to travel faster than the posted speed limit no matter what it is.

“You know, when it’s posted 55, people go 65. When it’s posted 65, people go 75. It’s human nature,” said McCarthy.

City Councilor Carmel Patrick, a fellow Democrat, agrees with the mayor.

“There’s definitely research that’s showing that reducing that speed limit by that 5 miles can help to cut back on fatalities, if pedestrians are in accidents,” said Patrick. “As well as actually, does have an impact on getting people to drive a little bit slower.”

At Monday’s Scheenctady City Council meeting, one resident did object to the idea, calling it “unreasonable.”

The Capital District Transportation Committee completed a 2019 Local Road Safety Action Plan, recommending a “review of jurisdictional policies and responsibilities related to setting speed limits.”

Sandy Misiewicz is the CDTC’s Executive Director:

“One of the topic areas that comes up a lot when you review the crash data is the impact speed has on fatal and serious injury crashes. And there’s no question the pandemic heightened that even more. With less drivers on the roads, people were even driving faster. So we definitely have a speed disease in our region as well as in the nation.”

Misiewicz said planning agencies are keeping eyes on New York City, which reduced speed limits under former Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“New York City recently passed legislation through the state to decrease their city-wide speed limit to 25 miles per hour. These lower speed limits, again, help to increase the likelihood of survivability of a crash,” said Misiewicz.

Governor Hochul’s office told WAMC the Democrat is reviewing the legislation.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.