Speed Limit Bill is “the Best We Can Do,” Says Councilman

Friday, November 29, 2013 – 04:00 AM By KATE HINDS Source: Transportation Nation

New York City's speed limit (b*cakes/flickr)

New York City’s speed limit (b*cakes/flickr)

Efforts to lower New York City’s speed limit to 20 miles per hour run up against Albany’s rule, says New York City Council member David Greenfield. Now, his bill would mandate a 25 mile per hour limit on some streets.  He says that’s not what he wanted, but adds it’s part of a larger plan to get the state to give the city more authority to control its own roads.

Greenfield said the altered bill is the result of an “inability to pass 20 mile per hour legislation, based on our understanding of state law.”

Now, Intro 535 would lower the speed limit to 25 mph on all one-lane, one-way streets, as well as require the city’s Department of Transportation to add seven more so-called “Slow Zones” a year.

The state’s control of the city’s speed limit chafes many local legislators and is the subject of some confusion among advocates. (See @transportnation‘s recent twitter feed for more.)

“New York State micromanages New York City’s traffic regulations,” Greenfield said. “As a result, despite the fact that we would like to lower it to 20 miles per hour, we don’t have the ability to do that.”

But what about the part of state law that says the city can lower the speed limit near school zones?

“I’m going to refer you to legal counsel,” Greenfield said, “but having spoken to them about it…they don’t believe that we have that. We’ve explored it and we didn’t think we had the ability to do that.”

Emails to the NYC Law Department were not immediately returned.

But Greenfield says the bill is part of a larger strategy to convince Albany that the city needs more home rule when it comes to roads. “Hopefully we can get the state to give us back the authority to regulate our own traffic regulations.”

“We’ve worked on this again and again and again and again, and this seems to be the best we can do,” he said.

But that push, he said, won’t start until the legislative year begins in January.

Greenfield says his bill has broad support in City Council, and that he expects it to pass before the end of this year.

Kate Hinds

Kate Hinds is an Associate Producer for WNYC News.  She also reports for WNYC and Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.