Metro Council lowers residential street speed limits

Speed limits on about 1,500 miles of neighborhood streets in East Baton Rouge Parish are being lowered from 30 to 25 mph.

The Baton Rouge Metro Council passed an ordinance Wednesday reducing the speed limits on residential streets without center stripes.

The new speed limits will take effect road by road, as each one receives new speed-limit signs — a process expected to take two years to complete.

“It’s significant,” said Bryan Harmon, interim Department of Public Works director. “You’re talking about 12,000 signs that need to be changed out.”

The estimated cost is $300,000, DPW Chief Traffic Engineer Ingolf Partenheimer said.

But the blow of the change was softened, he said, because the state is already requiring the city-parish to upgrade signs with more reflective ones. So all of the signs would have been swapped out eventually.

But Harmon said this changes the priority, because typically higher-volume roads would go first.

Traffic calming in residential neighborhoods is the No. 1 constituent complaint, said Matt Watson, a legislative aide for Councilman Ryan Heck, who sponsored the ordinance.

Watson noted that Louisiana is fifth in the country for pedestrian fatalities.

Greg Ducote, a member of the Southdowns Civic Association and a planning commissioner, called the measure an important safety issue for pedestrians.

“And I don’t believe that 25 miles per hour is going to critically inhibit anyone from getting where they need to be,” he said.

But Clay Doremus, who lives in Woodland Ridge, said he opposed the blanket nature of the ordinance, and doubts it will make an impact.

“We should leave well enough alone; I don’t think this is a problem,” he said. “It’s certainly not a problem across the parish.”

Previously, residents of a particular street could petition the Metro Council to reduce the speed limit; however, few such petitions were successful.

Ducote said he submitted his petition two years ago, and the speed limit was never lowered.

Wednesday’s measure passed 10-1, with only Councilman Scott Wilson objecting. Councilman Joel Boé was absent.

Wilson said he thought people should continue petitioning on an individual basis.

The cities of Central, Baker and Zachary are not affected by the ordinance.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter @rebekahallen. For more coverage of city-parish government, follow City Hall Buzz blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/cityhallbuzz/