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Lansdale Side Streets Speed Limit Change 'Inconceivable'

Councilman Rich DiGregorio requested the public safety committee look at the possibility of a blanketing speed limit of 25 mph or 15 mph for borough side streets that are without signage. Councilman Mike Sobel said the costs would be more than $500,000

In what was called a "pie in the sky" idea by Councilman Mike Sobel, a request by Lansdale Borough Councilman Rich DiGregorio to reduce all borough side streets, absent of posted speed limits, to 25 mph or 15 mph was researched and subsequently denied by the public safety committee for fiscal reasons.

However, after a debate during the council work session between DiGregorio and Sobel, President Matt West suggested DiGregorio discuss it further with Lansdale Police Chief Robert McDyre, borough Manager Timi Kirchner and Sobel.

Sobel, who chairs the committee, said a received an email from DiGregorio requesting the reduction and subsequent signage for all residential back streets.

Sobel said he, along with McDyre, researched facts and figures from the National Transportation Safety Board, PennDOT and the Minnesota Highway Department and came up with preliminary numbers.

"The sheer magnitude of the costs of this for signs of 25 mph are roughly $250 to $300 per sign," Sobel said. "They have to be put in increments of 1/8th of a mile, so 16 signs on one mile of highway."

If the borough were to institute such signage on half of Lansdale's 52 miles of roads, it would be more than $100,000 just for signs.

Furthermore, a two-man public works crew, with use of a public works truck, plus wear and tear, tools, wages and benefits, would be $150 an hour, he said. That amounts to more than $6,000 a week at eight hours a day, five days a week, he said. Sobel said at six months to a year, it is more than $156,000 in labor.

"We estimate it would take six months to at least a year to get half of the borough done," Sobel said. "If we drop it to 15 mph, then we're going to have to do all 52 miles and double it. Financially, it's $500,000. It's inconceivable."

Sobel said all the traffic studies that he and McDyre researched said there is a negligible impact on reducing speeds on side streets.

"The guy going 50 mph down Edgemont Avenue is going to do 50 mph down Edgemont, whether you have signs up, a cop sitting on the corner," Sobel said. "People drive like maniacs."

He added PennDOT doesn't recommend changing every street. He said the more signs you put up, the more, psychologically, people don't see them.

Sobel said the public safety committee and the police department do the best they can to try and enforce speed limits.

"An enforcement of 15 mph in the entire borough — we wouldn't have enough police to do it," Sobel said. "I'm glad Mr. DiGregorio is concerned about public safety, so am I. But it's just an inconceivable thing."

Sobel said PennDOT recommends not to do such an initiative unless a municipality absolutely has to to solve a problem.

Furthermore, Sobel said there are some streets in the borough that wouldn't warrant 15 mph speed limits, because you cannot go faster than 25 mph.

"They are narrow streets, and I can think of a few one-way streets in the borough that are alleys," Sobel said. "If you go faster than 25 mph on those streets, you're crazy anyway. You'll hit something. It's not doable, but we will honor requests as we get them." 

Sobel said at the council work session during his public safety report that those monetary figures don't account for attorney fees to change ordinances and traffic studies, which are required by PennDOT.

"It's inconceivable. It's not going to happen. It's pie in the sky," Sobel said. "I want to help where we can, and we will continue to do that."

DiGregorio said the borough's back streets, such as Sycamore Drive, Monticello Place and Gettysburg Drive, are borough streets, "not PennDOT streets."

"PennDOT controls everything," Sobel said. "Rich, you served on public safety. You should know this: PennDOT controls what we have to do. You can't pop up signs without going through proper procedures that PennDOT establishes, speed studies and everything." 

DiGregorio reiterated his recommendation was for back streets, not main streets.

"You still do speed studies," said Sobel. "You sent me an email that said we would save money by doing this. It's 16 signs per mile." 

DiGregorio said Williamsburg Road, which is located in his ward and neighborhood, had a 25 mph sign installed where one didn't exist before. If it wasn't there, then Williamsburg Road would be 35 mph.

Sobel said that was correct — unless posted, residential streets are either 35 mph or 55 mph in Pennsylvania.

"I don’t want people driving 35 mph in my neighborhood or your neighborhood," said DiGregorio.

"I don't want it either," Sobel said.

"My point is, putting signs on back streets is going to control cars going 35 mph or 55 mph," DiGregorio said.

"Is it?" asked Sobel. 

"If signs are there, people will abide what the sign is," DiGregorio said. "If the sign is not there, they go 35 mph in the neighborhood."

"What people should do and what they do in the real world are two different things," Sobel said. "Have residents reach out regarding the situation."

West said the issue warrants further discussion.

"Your solution sounds simple," West told DiGregorio. "It's not. It's complicated. Have that dialogue. Talk about what it means to change signs. I think that would be the most effective approach."

Maria Sekellic Sims September 14, 2012 at 02:32 PM
My street in Montgomery Township has signs posted 25 mph. I'd say 50% of drivers do over that. Some race down, using our street as a short cut from 202 to County Line. So signs do not guarantee any change in driving habits in my experience of living on this side street since 1994. A few people have driven through here so fast they took public light poles down.
Kathleen Hoynes September 14, 2012 at 03:01 PM
The town I lived in in NJ had 25 mile an hour speed limit throughout the town. Only Rt 28,which runs through the middle of town has a 35 mile an hour limit. It was much safer for the residents, and most people obeyed the law, and it is strictly enforced by the local police department, making for a safe place to live, and a town where people want to buy homes..
Steven Long September 14, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Lansdale is SCREWED UP! 15MPH? REALLY? My speedometer starts at 20MPH ... I'd have to have a magnifying glass and a course in calculus to determine if I am going 13 or 17. Meanwhile, while I am looking down at the speedo, I will likely run over a dum-a$$ kid who is playing in the street, instead of playing in their yard. As for 35MPH speed limits? I grew up on a street with a 35MPH speed limit. There are people who grow up on a 45 and/or 55MPH street. These people do not walk out into the street. There seems to be a dumbing down of residents who believe streets were created for kids to play!
Steven Long September 14, 2012 at 04:24 PM
I live in Montgomeryville as well ... it sounds as though your street is an exception. Most (not all) of the constant speeders are younger generation drivers. As for the light poles .. HOW FAST were they going, that the poles fell down? I am assuming you meant, they HIT the pole. That's wreckless driving, and / or losing control ... which can happen at most any speed.
Steven Long September 14, 2012 at 04:25 PM
It sounds like you were in a Town center atmosphere. You cannot arbitrarily place a speed limit on a road, because you feel it will be safer. 35MPH on Route 309 will NOT make it safer ... same for the Turnpike.

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