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Watch speed on 525

The 50 mile-per-hour limit on State Route 525 will soon be a thing of the past for motorists on Whidbey Island.

The Washington State Department of Transportation plans to tweak the speed limits near Greenbank and Freeland to enhance driver safety.

Speed limits between Harbor Avenue and Honeymoon Bay/Bush Point roads, and Leaf Lane and Wonn roads, will decrease to 45 mph.

Speed limits between Leaf Lane and Honeymoon Bay/Bush Point roads, and Wonn Road and Highway 20, will increase to 55 mph.

DOT spokesman Dave Chesson said crews will install all the new speed limit signs sometime this week, depending on the weather.

Sgt. Don Ney of the Washington State Patrol said he views these changes as positive.

“I think it’ll give that area a little more consistency as far as the up-and-down speeds,” he said. “We have such a variety of speed limits on the south end. Consistency always creates a safer driving environment.”

Chesson said the DOT conducted a detailed evaluation of the area during the summer, studying such factors as roadside development, accident data, recent improvements, pedestrian and cyclist use, site distance, and traffic controls.

“In this case, we knew that there was an increase in traffic around Greenbank and Freeland — Freeland has seen an increase of about 600 cars daily from 2001 to 2004 — and that we had made improvements in this area of State Route 525 over the past few years,” Chesson said. “The speed studies showed that there have been enough accidents in Greenbank and Freeland to warrant reducing the speed limit, and that recent improvements in the more open stretches would allow for speed increases.”

He said that before any speed changes are implemented, findings from the speed changes are reviewed by traffic engineers and approved by the State Patrol.

“These changes will better match motorists’ speeds with the roadway environment,” said DOT Traffic Engineer Dina Swires. “People want to drive slower through the towns and faster in the open stretches.”

Sgt. Ney said State Patrol troopers will not conduct any speed emphasis patrols in the area. He said he hopes the bright orange flags atop the new speed limit signs will be enough to attract drivers’ attention.

“Maybe six months from now, if we’re still having complaints, we’ll go down there,” Ney said.

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