Lowering Speed Limits in Municipalities

        While serving on the Shamong Township Committee one of the most discussed issues was that of speeders and appropriate speed limits on municipally controlled roads. Shamong has its share of state and county roads over which the municipal officials had no control. Attempts to change speed limits on the municipality controlled roads was an onerous process, thwarting the will of the local body to react to changes in the community and the will of our constituents.
        In the last hours of the Jon Corzine administration the Governor signed into effect legislation attempting to pave the way for municipalities to address this issue. S1234/A1144 empowers municipalities and counties to set their own “reasonable and safe speed limits” for self-contained roadways within their borders without having to seek approval from the state government, as long as a licensed professional engineer agrees the changes are appropriate.

        A municipality may, without the approval of the Commissioner of Transportation, do the following by ordinance or resolution, as appropriate:

(a) designate parking restrictions, no passing zones, mid-block crosswalks, and crosswalks at intersections, and erect appropriate signs and install appropriate markings, on streets under municipal jurisdiction which are totally self-contained within that municipality and have no direct connection with any street in any other municipality;

(b) designate reasonable and safe speed limits and erect appropriate signs, on any street under municipal jurisdiction;

(c) designate any intersection as a stop or yield intersection and erect appropriate signs, on streets under municipal jurisdiction which are totally self-contained within that municipality and have no direct connection with any street in any other municipality; and

(d) designate any intersection as a stop intersection and erect appropriate signs, on streets under municipal jurisdiction if that intersection is located within 500 feet of a school, or of a playground or youth recreational facility and the street on which the stop sign will be erected is contiguous to that school, or playground or youth recreational facility.

        These powers will allow municipalities to address speed, parking and traffic safety issues on a local level, with the guidance of their engineer and solicitor rather than appeal to Trenton for permission. The changes certainly stand to streamline the process and make local government more responsive.
        Some towns, like State Police patrolled Port Republic will be able to standardize their speed limits at 25 mph, making it easier to patrol and enforce the roads of the community. Port Republic Mayor Gary Giberson believes it will benefit the community and the officers who patrol within its borders. “Unless they’re really familiar with our town, they’d have to stop and (say),’Wait, where am I again? I’m east of what road? I’m west of what road?'” Giberson said. “Making all of our roads 25 miles per hour will make our town a little easier to patrol.”
        For County-controlled roads Port Republic and other municipalities will need to petition for changes to these roadways. There are also special considerations when roads cross from municipality to municipality.
        In the next few months local governing bodies should be looking at the speed limits in their town, considering how they affect traffic, residences, schools, police, foot traffic and other concerns. Trenton has just given these officials a useful tool to make changes which before enactment of this law were likely prohibitive.
        If you would like to discuss this or any municipal issue please call us to set up a conversation about your specific concerns. Long Marmero is committed to facilitating good government by educating and empowering local officials to lead and lead well.

For more information about how this new legislation is affecting the Atlantic County town of Port Republic, read Rob Spahr’s article in the February 22, 2010 Atlantic City Press.

Jim Schroeder is an attorney with Long, Marmero & Associates, a firm specializing in municipal governance.

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