Speed limits make sense

New speed limits on Whidbey Island’s main highway are starting to make sense.

We say “starting to” because there remains one glaring example of an inappropriate speed limit.

As Mayor Nancy Conard pointed out at last week’s Town Council meeting, the speed limit on Highway 20 through Coupeville is 55 mph, faster than the approaches from either direction.

This speed was apparently set when the pedestrian overpass was built years ago. Perhaps planners back then thought all pedestrians would be above the traffic, thus there was no sense in slowing down the motoring public.

But a lot has changed since those days. Coupeville has grown extensively south of the highway, increasing the number of pedestrians crossing on the side of the intersection with no overpass.

In addition, vehicular traffic has increase significantly in recent years. A woman was killed last year when her car was hit by a truck as she tried to enter the highway. A slower speed limit may have prevented the accident or at least made it less than fatal.

Elsewhere, the Department of Transportation is finally showing some common sense in adjusting highway speed limits. This month, the speed limit through Freeland and Greenbank was cut to 45 mph, while the rest Highway 525 south of Coupeville is 55 mph. This improves safety, expedites travel in safe areas and is easier for motorists to remember.

Dropping the speed limit through Coupeville to 45 mph would be consistent with what’s already happening on the highway.

At Conard’s request, highway officials will do a traffic study in Coupeville to determine the best speed limit. This should be one of those five-minute studies in which the obvious conclusion is reached without cost: Of course the change should be made. No doubt the actual study will take much longer and cost much more, but the result should make the mayor happy. Highway traffic through Coupeville needs to be slowed down as soon as possible.

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