Slow your roll

Austin lowers speed limit on neighborhood roads and downtown streets

Austin lowers speed limit on neighborhood roads and downtown streets

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Universal speeds limits will roll out over the next few months. Photo courtesy of Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC

One of the unintended consequences of working from home is that I spend an extraordinary amount of time sitting on my front porch. It's pleasant — the last owner installed a fan and I chat with neighbors as they stroll by on their quarantine walks. But since decamping to the front porch, I've also noticed how fast people drive down my residential street, causing me to leap to my feet, shake my fist, and yell "slow down!" at least once a day. 

This little anecdote is all to say that on June 11, the Austin City Council approved reduced speed limits on residential streets and certain downtown roads. The measure, part of the city's Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic deaths, was based "on a year-long comprehensive engineering study of speed limits on city roadways."

“Speeding is one of the top behaviors that leads to serious injuries and death on our roadways,” said Austin Transportation Department director Robert Spillar in a release. “We believe changes like the proposed new speed limits will better reflect our safety goals and encourage drivers to be more cautious when driving in potentially high-pedestrian environments. These changes will help Austin provide more livable places for nearby residents, businesses, and commuters.”

Speed reductions will occur on the following roadways: 

  • Neighborhoods — Neighborhood streets which are approximately 36 feet or less in width and have primarily front-facing residential land uses will be posted at 25 mph. Some neighborhood streets wider than 36 feet will also have reduced posted speed limits.
  • Urban core "arterials"— Most streets in the urban core, the area of Austin bounded by 183 and 71, and I-35 and Loop 1, will be posted at 35 mph or less, with a few exceptions.
  • Downtown — Most downtown streets — the area between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Cesar Chavez Street, and I-35 and North Lamar Boulevard — will be 25 mph.
  • Guadalupe Street, Lavaca Street, MLK Jr. Boulevard., 15th Street, Cesar Chavez Street, and North Lamar Boulevard — Now 30 mph.

View of map of the changes here.

Austin's new speed limits will be phased in over the next few months, and will first begin with posted signs and digital messaging displays. The city says it will also be changing some of streets themselves, such as narrowing the width of the lanes or adding bike lanes or additional parking spots. 

Reducing speed limits, says the city, will help expand road use for bikers, walkers, and those with limited mobility. It also notes that uniform speed limits help drivers know the rules and police maintain universal enforcement.