Perhaps unwisely, since I don’t want to violate any unwritten law of journalism, I have signed this online petition calling for lower speed limits in the vicinity of Round Lake Road, west of Northway Exit 11 in the town of Malta.
Round Lake Road is where two roundabouts were constructed recently, over the opposition of many local residents including Kathy Eitzmann and Elwood “Woody” Sloat. While they never persuaded me that it was a bad idea to build the roundabouts, I do agree with them about the speed limits. And more to the point, I wonder why this is a state as opposed to a local issue. Why can’t Malta cut its own speed limits, at least on town roads (which some of those included in the petition are)?
A similar issue came up recently in Ballston, where residents of the new Timber Creek development want a 20 mph speed limit, and were advised they would need state legislation to make it happen.
I myself live in a “no outlet” development of fewer than 20 houses, consisting of a street and a small circle, where the posted speed limit is 30 mph. This seems obviously too high, especially if some irresponsible driver is tempted to go a bit faster than the limit (as most people do on the Northway). But lowering it would require a state law.
My traffic engineer friend from Malta tells me limits need to be consistent and reasonable, and that what seems to non-experts to be common sense may not be so in reality. It’s all explained, he says, in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, including how you’ve got to do a study before you do anything. I am skeptical.
Sloat, who is a retired state police major, says the requirement that towns, unlike villages and cities, need state permission to set limits is “archaic.” But Assemblyman Steve McLauglin’s bill to give towns that power never made it out of committee.
The requirements in current law are not just undemocratic and costly, but potentially corrupt. The state Legislature, remember, recently saw its two top leaders, Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, convicted on all counts of multiple felony charges, and many of their colleagues have run into similar trouble. Are these really the public officials we want controlling speed limits on local roads?
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