New state law, City Council vote means speed limits coming down on three dozen streets

Palm Springs will be the first city in the state to take advantage of a new law allowing greater flexibility over speed limits. The result? Lower speed limits will go into effect on three dozen city streets starting in 2022.

The move was made possible by a state bill — AB43 — that goes into effect on January 1. Municipalities were previously only allowed to set speed limits within the 85th percentile of “spot speed” surveys conducted by traffic engineers. The surveys measure typical vehicle speeds on some city streets. Under AB43, cities are now allowed to consider many other factors, including pedestrian and bicycle use on those streets.

After a traffic engineering firm completed its survey of city streets earlier this year — the first since 2013 — it was determined that the speed limits on 179 of 215 street segments could remain the same. On the remainder, the speed limits are now allowed to come down, typically by five mph. The Palm Springs City Council unanimously approved those lower limits earlier this month.

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For Mayor Lisa Middleton, the flexibility allowed for under the new state law was a bit of a personal mission. She was one of more than two dozen members of the state’s Zero Fatalities Task Force that helped draft language used in AB43.

“This is something near and dear to our hearts,” she said during the December 9 City Council meeting. “Speed limits are going to finally be coming down.”

While not the most pressing issue in the city, Councilmember Dennis Woods said, “We do get a lot of complaints about speeding.” He proposed city leaders and staff carve out time to look at long-term solutions that would lead to safer streets that are useful to more than just cars and trucks.

“We really need to invest in our streets and the geometrics of our streets,” Woods said. “We have just not made that a priority. We need to look at funding more geometric changes to beautify our streets and to make them more for multimodal use.”

More information: The complete staff report, including the engineering firm’s 2021 traffic study, is available here.

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