Texas

Fort Worth may support lower residential speed limits. ’5 mph is a small price to pay’

Councilwoman Ann Zadeh’s fight to get drivers to slow down in Fort Worth neighborhoods continues this legislative session, but victory is unclear.

Zadeh testified earlier this month in favor of House Bill 1287, which calls for lowering the speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph on neighborhood streets. The city council Tuesday will consider amending their legislative priorities to include support for the bill.

The District 9 councilwoman has pushed for lowering the default speed limit on residential streets for years and called for legislation in 2017.

The issue is a matter of public safety, Zadeh said, and is in line with Fort Worth’s Complete Streets effort, which aims to make roadways safer for walkers, bikers and drivers, Zadeh said. A pedestrian hit by a car moving at 20 mph has a 98 percent chance of survival versus a 62 percent chance when hit by a car at 40 mph, according to Vision Zero, a statewide effort to lower the speed limit.

“I’ve heard from a lot of neighborhoods about getting people to slow down,” she said. “We really can’t have safe streets, or some of the other initiatives, without a lower speed limit.”

In order for a Fort Worth neighborhood to lower the speed limit, the department of transportation and public works must conduct a a traffic study before the city considers a change. That’s led to a hodgepodge of speed limits depending on the neighborhood or city, Zadeh said.

HB 1287, by state Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, was left pending in the House Transportation Committee. Other bills with similar goals have been proposed including one that would lower the speed limit to 25 mph in cities with population greater than 790,000 and one that would apply only to cities larger than 1.3 million.

A companion bill to Israel’s proposal, Senate Bill 1023, by state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee but has yet to have a hearing yet. HB 1287 has not been voted out of the House Transportation Committee.

“The bill was left pending in committee and we will wait and see if it has the votes to get out of committee,” said state Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, who serves on the Transportation Committee.

Israel has said that dropping the speed limits could make residential streets safer. Even a 5 mph drop in the speed limit, she has said, could save a pedestrian’s life.

“This is our way to say, ‘Everybody calm down. You don’t have to drive quite as fast,’” Israel has told reporters. “I think five miles an hour is a small price to pay.”

In late 2016, before the Texas Legislature last met, Zadeh called on the council to support such a plan in the city’s legislative priority list. At the time, she said if a bill lowering the speed limits didn’t become law, she hoped the city would move to lower at least local speed limits.

The council that year ultimately chose not to support lowering the speed limit on neighborhood streets across Texas to 25 from 30 mph, where the speed is not posted. Though Zadeh wanted support, she said the council was concerned support for a statewide reduction would conflict with the city’s push for more local control.

“This is something the state already has control over so I don’t think it would take away from our narrative of local control,” she said.

Though previous attempts to lower the default limit failed, Zadeh said she is “very hopeful” this session will be different. If the legislators don’t take action, she said she would support a Fort Worth ordinance lowering the speed limit.

Texas lawmakers have until the end of their legislative session, May 27, to pass laws.

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Luke Ranker covers the intersection of people and government focused on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. He came to Texas from the plains of Kansas, where he wrote about a lot, including government, crime and courts in Topeka. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or lranker@star-telegram.com.
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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.
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