West Main, Niemann Streets speed study sets speed limits

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Development in the northwest section of Winters has resulted in increased traffic and resident complaints of excessive traffic speeds on W. Main and Niemann Streets.

In response, the city hired Kittleson & Associates to conduct a traffic volume and speed study that resulted in a 454-page report presented to the city council at the May 17 meeting.

The outcome of the study is the adoption of Ordinance 2022-05, establishing a 25 mph speed limit for W. Main Street between Grant Avenue and Moody Slough Road, and a 30 mph speed limit for Niemann Street between W. Main and Railroad Streets.

Resident Tina Lowden touted Neimann Street as “Neimann Highway” and thanked the city for conducting the study and encouraged community education be done to inform drivers about the new speed limits.

“We need to teach people about the 30 mph on Neimann. Slow down near Rominger — the roundabout and into the 25 mph,” Lowden said.

Resident Amy Roberts told council of her concern for pedestrians, bikers and students and asked council members not to increase the speed limit on 

“Neimann Highway” to 30 mph. She said once people are going a fast rate, they don’t slow down.

“Once they are going toward the new homes they speed up. It’s sad because we have two school areas. It’s not just Shirley Rominger, it’s also the FFA ag site,” said Roberts.

Roberts noted she didn’t understand the difference of this side of the roundabout vs the W. Main Street side which is being set for 25 mph.

“I’m just really concerned and I hope that there is more discussion about this later,” said Roberts.

Prior to the study, the city deployed a radar trailer to obtain speed and traffic information. According to the city staff report, the effort did not establish excessive speed issues.

State law requires that deviation from a 25 mph speed limit on local streets be supported by an engineering and traffic study (ETS) which also enables police to use radar speed enforcement.

The ETS for W. Main  and Niemann Streets was conducted between March 3 and March 9.

Traffic volume on W. Main Street was reported to average between 1,500 and 2,000 vehicles per day while Niemann Street traffic ranged slightly higher at 1,500 to 2,500 vehicles.

Recorded vehicle speeds found, for the most part, that vehicles traveled near the posted speed limits of 25 mph.

The mechanism utilized to develop safe speeds is determined by the speed of the 85th percentile of free-flowing traffic rounded off to the nearest 5 mph increment.

The 85th percentile speed is the speed at or below which 85 percent of the traffic is moving.

The 85th percentile finding was 30 mph for W. Main Street and 35 mph for Neimann Street.

However, Kittleson and the city’s consulting engineer recommended reducing both 85th percentile findings down 5 mph due to the proximity of housing and schools.

Since the previous speed limits for both W. Main and Neimann Streets have been 25 mph, there is no change for W. Main Street, but an increase of 5 mph was approved for Neimann Street to 30 mph, except for a 25 mph stretch at Shirley Rominger Intermediate School when applicable.

Chief John P. Miller spoke briefly and said the ordinance will now permit his department to use radar to enforce the speed limits on W. Main and Neimann Streets.

Miller said “people drive what they feel is comfortable,” and the only way currently to establish what their speed is to pace them while driving behind. Since most drivers slow down when a police vehicle is behind them, finding speeders was challenging. But with the ability to use the radar, Winters PD will be able to identify speeding individuals.

Mayor Wade Cowan asked why the ag site didn’t qualify as a school site.

Alan L. Mitchell, Contract Engineer for the study, said he did not know and asked Aaron Elias, Traffic Engineer overseeing the study for insight. Elias said that school zone speed limits and speed limits have different sets to consider, and since they were conducting a speed study they did not consider school zone speed limits.

Elias told the Express he doesn’t know where the “school zone” is located on Neimann. In addition, he stated that although considerations were made, there was no study of pedestrian activity as part of the traffic study.

Elias told councilmembers he would have to look into the details on if the ag site would qualify as a speed zone for a school. But based on the traffic study data, they did take a 5 mph reduction for Neimann Street considering the ag site and residential homes in the area.

Councilmembers Bill Biasi and Jesse Loren spoke to comments from community members from over the years, and supported the notion that the speed study can be revisited. Both Biasi and Loren spoke in favor of the speed limit change.

The motion to approve the adjusted speed limits for W. Main and Neimann Streets was passed by a 4-0-1 vote. Councilmember Harold Anderson abstained.

Crystal Apilado contributed to this article.

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