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Auburn City Council restores former speed limits on selected arterials

When the Auburn City Council in June 2012 reduced speed limits "on certain arterial routes within the city," including West Valley Highway, former Mayor Pete Lewis said it was about preserving deteriorating city streets and making the drive safer.

On Tuesday, the council under a new mayor reversed that two-year-old decision, returning the speed limits to what they had been before, following the Public Works Committee's recommendation.

During her recent campaign for office, Mayor Nancy Backus said that, if elected mayor, she would make the change.

"We tried it, it didn't work," Backus said Tuesday.

The Public Works Department is still mulling the changes, but if the earlier decision were to be reversed across the board, Monday's actions would restore the former speed limits as follows:

• 37th Street Northeast-Northwest — from 30 to 40 mph;

• West Valley Highway between 15th Street Northwest and West Main Street — from 35 to 40 mph;

• 37th Northeast and Northwest, between Auburn Way North and West Valley Highway— from 30 to 40 mph.

The except is West Main Street between West Valley Highway and the Interurban Trail, which stays at 35 mph.

The earlier decision was controversial. Some critics saw it as the City's means of punishing voters for rejecting a $59 million road bond in May 2012, only one month before the date of the resolution.

In language attached to resolution 5038, the City explained.

The City "recognizes that the effect of reducing speed limits along certain arterial streets within the City did not accomplish the level of street preservation desired, nor did it significantly add to traffic safety. It is therefore appropriate to endeavor to reach these goals through other alternatives including conventional engineering strategies."

The resolution leaves out any mention of what data City engineers collected and City leaders relied on to reach these conclusions.

Specifically, what level of street preservation framers had hoped to achieve but didn't. And what did engineers do to measure the effect of the reduced speed limits on traffic safety between June 2012 and January 2014.

"The original speed limits were set by an engineering study," said Councilmember Wayne Osborne, chair of the Public Works Committee. "The diversion of traffic that they had been hoping for did not occur and the roads are not deteriorating any slower than they thought because it was 2012-2014. And with the citizens input we received it would probably be prudent for us to reconsider and raise the speed limit."

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