What is the speed limit in Schenectady?

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SCHENECTADY – The speed limit could be reduced to 25 miles per hour in the city if Gov. Kathy Hochul signs legislation that has reached her desk.

City council members are cautiously optimistic that exceeding five miles from the cap on the city’s streets will help curb a quality of life issue in a city faced with other housing issues like illegal use of firecrackers and reckless driving.

Residents, neighborhood groups and non-profit organizations have all supported the push.

“Probably we all hear from residents every week about speeding happening in the city as a major quality of life and safety issue,” said Councilwoman Carmel Patrick.

Carmel said the devil is in the details.

After New York City lowered its speed limit to 40 km/h last year, transit facilities dropped more than 22 percent, according to Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit organization that advocates reduced vehicle use and safer driving habits. Pedestrian deaths fell by more than 25 percent

“Lower speed limits mean that everyone drives slower, including people who disobey the limit,” the study says. “Both Boston and Portland found that when the speed limit was lowered, those who exceeded the speed limit responded by reducing their driving speed. The most dangerous drivers, those driving faster than 35mph, saw the biggest reduction in speed.”

Efforts to lower the city’s speed limit have garnered overwhelming support among council members, a group that has fractured into factions over a series of issues in recent years.

If Hochul supports Schenectady’s request, the city would be the first in the region to lower its citywide speed limit to 25 miles per hour. In 2017, the death of 7-year-old Qazir Sutherland prompted Albany to lower the speed limit to 25 mph on a portion of South Pearl Street. The child was hit by a car.

The Schenectady Council has been discussing ideas for reducing dangerous driving and keeping pedestrians safe through several campaigns and civil society awareness events for years. But the city’s inaction in passing guidelines and the coronavirus pandemic have slowed the process.

This includes the installation of $20,000 in “speed bumps” originally designed to be installed in troublesome lanes. The speed reduction devices, originally approved by the city council years ago, remain in storage while the city police and engineering departments study operational plans.

“It was a bigger internal conversation back then, ‘just buy them and put them away,'” said city engineer Chris Wallin, who said officials are looking to Rochestor, which has begun creating a manual on their use. “We want to make sure we’re not doing anything that causes a bigger problem on an adjacent street.”

If lawmakers enacted a new speed limit, the city council would have to replace up to 200 signs at a cost of $40 per sign. According to the city’s Signal Superintendent, John Coluccio, the phase-in will last three or four months.

“It’s a ‘feel good’ thing,” Coluccio said of the campaign, noting that to be truly effective, the effort needs to be paired with other city-led initiatives as part of broader traffic calming measures and projects.

After Hochul approves the law, the city council could pass legislation to lower the city’s speed limit or ask Wallin to make a unilateral decision.

Lawmakers are expected to revisit the “drive threshold” decision next week.

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