CLAYTON — The North Carolina Department of Transportation has evaluated the speed limit on Vinson Road near Powhatan Elementary and said the existing 35 m.p.h. limit would do, but some council members disagree.
“I think that is a huge mistake,” said councilman Michael Grannis. “To me they’re putting children who are trying to cross the street in those hours in jeopardy.”
The town submitted a formal request to the NC DOT in December to lower the speed limit along a portion of Vinson Road near Powhatan Elementary School from 35 m.p.h. to 25 m.p.h. The speed limit is currently 45 m.p.h. leading up to the school. It changes to 35 m.p.h. in front of the school.
The recommendation from DOT is to lower the speed limit from 45 mph to 35 mph in the area leading up to the school, keeping the 35 mph in the school zone.
“When we received the request for speed limit reduction, we went out and did an investigation and found that people were not reducing their speed to 35 m.p.h. in the school zone,” said DOT spokeswoman Jennifer Garifo. “By changing the entire stretch to 35 m.p.h., you won’t have drivers potentially not slowing down at all.”
If the speed limit leading up to the school zone was decreased to 35 mph as DOT proposes, there would be no difference in the school zone speed, and the regular speed limit on the road.
"I can not believe that we would continue putting children in danger by keeping that 35 m.p.h. speed limit," said Grannis.
Garifo said DOT sent a letter to the town clerk’s office on February 4, asking for feedback for their recommendations. They have not received feedback from the town yet, and will wait for the town to comment before putting any new speed limit in place.
“If the town comes back and says they are not happy, inspectors might go out and do another study but we determined this was the right speed in that area,” said Garifo. She said DOT does take the feedback into consideration and has changed their recommendations in the past when they were not in accordance with what residents or a town felt was appropriate.
DOT relies on calls to the Division Traffic Office from residents or a town to be notified that there is a particular street or road where a speed limit may need to be changed.
Town Manager Steve Biggs said the town would now submit its feedback to DOT, asking again for a 25 mph speed limit in front of the school.
Garifo said the agency looks at several factors to determine how to set a speed limit. Those factors include:the condition of the road, the width of the road, number of traffic lanes, the shoulders, the width of shoulder, hills in the road, and curves in road. They also look at how the area is developed, whether it’s a residential or business area, the type of vehicles on the road, whether it’s commuter or truck traffic, the type of intersection, if there is a signal, or if there are many driveways.