SEBASTIAN – In the coming weeks, Sebastian city officials should hear from the Florida Department of Transportation about the city’s need for slower speed.
City leaders and members of the business community have asked the department to review the 40 mph speed limit through town, from County Road 512 to north of Main Street.
FDOT officials said they are working on a study of the traffic pattern there, including the number of vehicles, the traffic flow, and the speed.
Sebastian Police Department’s public information officer, Officer Steve Marcinik, said that the department has issued 56 speeding citations and 200 speed-related warnings along US 1 in the last year.
Of the citations, the majority of drivers cited were going between 9 and 12 mph over the posted limit. Some drivers were cited for driving 20 mph or more over the limit, Officer Marcinik said.
“It’s always been an issue of concern,” he said of the speed on any of the major thoroughfares, including US 1.
Over a three-year period, the Sebastian Police Department has logged 46 vehicular crashes, none of which were directly attributed to speed, Officer Marcinik said.
However, many of the crashes were operator error and involved violating the right of way of other motorists.
Some of those crashes could have been due to drivers who were pulling out of on-street parking spots into oncoming traffic, he said. How many was not known.
Business owners along US 1 have expressed support for having a speed limit less than 40 mph, citing concerns for those who use on-street parking and visibility of those businesses.
City Manager Al Minner said the city, too, has been interested in pursuing a possibly lower speed limit through downtown as a way to maintain the area’s integrity and promote US 1 as a designated scenic highway.
“It has been an issue that’s been going on for some time,” Minner said.
Rick Mitinger, of FDOT’s traffic operations division, said the department is conducting a study of the roadway, as it did in or about 2005.
“We’ve looked at it a number of times,” Mitinger said.
The 2005 study showed that the speed should be 40 mph, not slower. However, in the years since, conditions on the roadway may have changed enough to warrant a slower speed.
“Everything’s possible,” Mitinger said, how probable the change might be remains unknown.
FDOT has standards it adheres to when determining the appropriate speed for an area, according to Mitinger. Most of the time, the speed limit is set to whatever speed 85 percent of the drivers drive during non-peak hours in ideal conditions.
The department also takes into consideration medians, pedestrians, road design and other items.
“There really aren’t any absolutes,” Mitinger said.
After FDOT studies the roadway, he said the next step would be notify the city government and police department of its findings before making any changes to the speed limit.
The department is not obligated to hold public meetings pertaining to speed limit changes, but does have to tell the local officials.
Mitinger said the traffic department’s goal is to keep traffic flowing and moving at a safe speed. Other than that, those performing the road study try to remain as neutral as possible before making a recommendation for speed.
“It’s a delicate mix,” Mitinger said of trying to balance safety, the city’s wish, and modifying drivers’ behavior.
Also coming in the next few weeks is the city’s proposal to FDOT for bump-outs – or as FDOT calls them, bulb-outs.
Whichever way they’re called, they serve as a traffic-calming device, helping to slow traffic by making the road look narrower than it really is. The bump-outs would help define the on-street parking in front of downtown businesses.
Minner said he expects the city to send its conceptual plan for the bump-outs in a couple weeks.