Highway speed limit in Coupeville drops
By NATHAN WHALEN
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
September 23, 2011 · Updated 3:40 PM
Coupeville leaders will see something happen that they’ve been wanting for years — a lower speed limit on the highway going through Coupeville.
In the coming weeks, the speed limit on Highway 20 through Coupeville’s town limits will drop from 55 miles per hour to just 45 mph.
Town officials have been going back and forth with the state for years about the speed limit through town. Coupeville politicians finally won the argument.
Mark Leth, regional transportation engineer for the Washington State Department of Transportation, said staff members reevaluated recent traffic studies and found that a speed limit change was in order.
“We think a 45 miles per hour step is an appropriate change,” Leth said Thursday morning. He added the transportation department constantly examines traffic information to make sure speed limits are appropriate.
Generally speaking, speed limits are set based on speed studies on a section of road. The national standard is to set speed limits so that 85 percent of motorists would be in compliance. The goal is to have safe speed, but also efficient travel on the county’s byways.
For the stretch of Highway 20 going through Coupeville, that 85 percentile speed is approximately 51 miles per hour. If a speed limit is placed too low, then it could spark lines of cars and create potentially dangerous passing situations. However, Leth said he doesn’t foresee long traffic lineups due to the lower speed limits.
Only a small stretch of Highway 20 will be affected by the change. The 45 mile an hour speed limit will start near the intersection with Ebey Road and go through the next intersection at Main Street before returning to 55 mph.
Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard said she has been talking with transportation officials for years about the speed. She said the recent accidents that have taken place on Highway 20, especially at the the intersection with Broadway, reminded her of the issue over the speed limit on the highway. She noted, however, the recent accidents that have taken place at the intersection with Broadway weren’t related to speed.
Conard said she was pleased that transportation officials were willing to look at the speed limit again.
“All of the sudden, there was a path open to do it,” Conard said.
Before the speed limit change can take place, the Coupeville Town Council has to approve an ordinance. Conard said that ordinance is scheduled to be voted on during the council’s Oct. 11 meeting.
Leth estimated it would take between three and four weeks for the 45 mph speed limit to take effect.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Nathan Whalen at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5058.