Council puts the brakes on speed limit reduction plan

With two council members absent, the proposal fails

A plan to lower the speed limit on three heavily traveled Fort Dodge roads was rejected by the City Council Monday.

The council defeated the proposal on its second reading, with only Councilman Jeff Halter voting in favor of it.

Council members Dave Flattery, Dean Hill and Lydia Schuur, all of whom voted for the proposal during its first reading on Sept. 10, voted against it on Monday.

Flattery and Schuur both said they received feedback from the public that helped convince them to change their minds.

The plan would have reduced the speed limit on Kenyon Road from U.S. Highway 169 to Eighth Street to 35 mph. The speed limit there is now 45 mph and will remain so in the wake of Monday’s council action.

The proposal would also have reduced the speed limit on Second Avenue South from U.S. Highway 169 to Third Street to 45 mph. The speed limit there is now 50 mph.

Additionally, the speed limit on Fifth Avenue South between Eighth and 21st streets would have been reduced to 30 mph. Most of that stretch has a 35 mph speed limit, except for a section near the former Fair Oaks Middle School, where the speed limit is 30 mph.

The city had received letters from officials of Iowa Central Community College, Friendship Haven, and UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center requesting the speed limit reduction on Kenyon Road.

On Monday, Julie Thorson, the president and chief executive officer of Friendship Haven, asked the council to trim the speed limit there.

”We really feel that slowing traffic down out there would be a great change,” she said.

Thorson said a traffic light was considered for the Kenyon Road entrance to the retirement community, but was found to be ”cost-prohibitive.”

Mayor Matt Bemrich said the speed limit on Kenyon Road has come up repeatedly when he meets with Friendship Haven residents.

Flattery said he would consider other approaches to improving safety on the three roads.

”I don’t want to let this issue die,” he said. ”I think there are issues out there.”

Hill said he drove along Kenyon Road recently and concluded that drivers ”can’t stay at 35” on the western end of that road.

Councilman Kim Alstott, who opposed the speed limit reduction since it was introduced, read from what he said was a posting on the Iowa Department of Transportation website which stated in general that reducing a speed limit was unlikely to reduce the number of crashes.

Halter said speed limits exist to keep people safe.

”Why do we have speed limits? Completely for safety,” he said.

He said he would support the request of three of the largest employers in Fort Dodge by voting to reduce the speed limit.

The second reading of the speed limit reduction was defeated on a 4-1 vote with two council members absent.

Halter voted yes.

Alstott, Flattery, Hill and Schuur voted no.

Councilmen Neven Conrad and Terry Moehnke were absent.

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