The Island County Board of Commissioners rejected this week community requests to lower the speed limits on two rural roads.
On Monday, the board agreed to support the recommendations of traffic engineers and not reduce the speed limits on Classic Road on South Whidbey and Patmore Road south of Coupeville.
Residents from each community submitted separate but formal petitions this past December to lower the existing limits from 50 mph to 35 mph for safety reasons. News of the rejection was mixed from disappointment and anger.
“Are they nuts?” said Cynthia Ellison, the organizer of the Classic Road petition.
Eighteen people put down their names, making it clear they believe 50 mph is too fast for the area, she said.
“Honest to God, it’s like a raceway,” Ellison said.
She lives on Resort Road, the intersection at the eastern end of Classic Road. Sight distance is poor, she says, and the posted limit makes overshooting the “T” intersection very dangerous.
“If they run the stop sign, they will go over the cliff and into peoples’ homes,” she said.
On Central Whidbey, 36 people signed the Patmore Road petition. Resident Gail Allen said the decision was not what she was hoping for but will have to live with the county’s ruling.
“I guess there is nothing that can be done if they did a study,” Allen said.
According to Devin Joslin, a traffic engineer with Island County Public Works, both roads were examined using nationally accepted engineering standards to see if a reduction was warranted.
The primary factor in setting limits is the 85th percentile speed, which is the speed the majority of drivers find comfortable and reasonable to drive.
On Patmore, characterized by Joslin in a written report to the board as a generally straight road with few residential driveways, that speed “was recorded at 50 mph with the 50 percent of vehicles traveling in the pace speed of 36 to 46 mph.”
In the past three years, only two collisions have been documented, he said.
As for Classic Road, also described as straight, relatively flat and with few driveways, most motors were found comfortable driving at speeds of “51 mph with 54 percent of vehicles traveling in the pace speed of 40 to 50 mph,” Joslin’s report said.
No collisions were documented on the road in the past three years, he said.
Joslin concluded the existing speed limit was OK on both roads and that a reduction was not warranted.
The board agreed to go with his recommendation, but there was some consideration to possibly widening Classic Road in the future, he said.
While Allen is willing to live with the county’s ruling, Ellison is not satisfied. She believes an accident is just waiting to happen. And when it does, she says county decision makers should be on the hook.
“They should be sued if anyone gets killed,” Ellison said. “This is nuts.”