ST. PAUL -- Drivers will need to cool their engines as they travel through St. Paul and Minneapolis. New 20 mile-per-hour speed limit signs are going up at the city borders this month announcing slower and presumably safer driving speeds through both cities.
The first 20 mph “gateway” sign was recently posted on the St. Paul-Minneapolis border of Franklin and Emerald avenues, and about 150 will follow between now and the end of the year.
The speed limit changes were set in motion by both city councils last year, based on findings that, in short, speed kills. A person hit by a car traveling at 35 mph, for instance, is three times as likely to die as someone hit at 25 mph. Injuries at slower speeds tend to be far less serious than those at faster ones.
By state statute, the speed limit on most urban, residential streets defaults to 30 mph, but state legislation that took effect last year allows cities to lower those limits without onerous, street-by-street engineering studies and lengthy conversations with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Creating new speed limits below 25 mph still requires technical analysis to make sure they’re applied clearly and consistently throughout the municipality.
In the Twin Cities, the new limits have already raised a bevy of questions with fans and foes alike. Will drivers respect the slower speeds? Will police enforce them? And is the current political and social moment the right time to ask authorities to pull over more people and hold urban communities accountable for new driving rules?
Not all St. Paul and Minneapolis streets will be held to the new 20 mph limit, which applies to most city-owned residential streets where speed limits had previously been set at 30 mph. In fact, exceptions are numerous.
In St. Paul, larger, arterial and collector city-owned streets have already been posted at 25 mph, as well as 30 mph or more in select areas.
Speed limits throughout downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul will be lowered to 25 mph. Minneapolis is planning signage throughout its downtown, while St. Paul will post the new speed limits at the entrances to downtown.
The recent state legislation does not include county and state-owned roads, so those speed limits will stay the same throughout both cities.