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Long Beach lowers speed limit to 25 mph on residential streets

A new 25 mph speed limit sign sits

A new 25 mph speed limit sign sits at the corner of Park Ave. and Neptune in Long Beach, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The Long Beach City Council has voted to reduce the city's speed limit to 25 mph on residential and side streets and to synchronize stoplights to keep traffic on its main thoroughfare under 30 mph.

City officials agreed earlier this month to lower the speed limit, unless otherwise posted, to 25 mph, which is the lowest speed possible without state legislation. Some streets -- such as the "canal streets," the "president streets" and parts of the West End -- have been lowered to 15 mph.

The council's move is aimed at making streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists as part of "The Long Beach Safety Initiative." The ordinance takes effect as soon as new signs are made and posted, likely in the next few weeks, officials said.

Speed limits had been set at 30 mph on most city streets.

Auto collisions with pedestrians and bicycles have fluctuated in the past three years. There were 27 bicycle crashes and 20 pedestrians struck last year, resulting in two deaths. There was one fatality in 2013, 11 pedestrians hit and 31 bicycle collisions.

The city's main corridor of Park Avenue will remain at 30 mph, but will now have synchronized stoplights on the street from Riverside Boulevard to New York Avenue. The stoplights were originally set to 35 mph. They will limit traffic from going above 30 mph before hitting a red light. All of the lights on Park Avenue are controlled by Nassau County, which agreed to sync the lights for the city.

Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney said the timing of stoplights will control speeding and make police enforcement unnecessary. He said that would free officers for greater enforcement on the eastern end of the city and on residential side streets. "There's a disincentive to speed or else you'll just be stopping at a red light," Tangney said. "They're almost self-policed red lights."

City officials do not have an estimate of any increased revenue from enforcement and said the goal is to make streets safer. The project is similar to New York City's "Vision Zero" traffic safety initiative, but Long Beach's study has been planned for several years, officials said.

A Long Beach police traffic study, conducted with the Melville-based RBA Group, measured the speeds on side streets handling 85 percent of vehicles, found them in the mid- to upper 20s and rounded down to 25 mph, said Gregory Del Rio, transportation director for the RBA Group.

A section of Park Avenue at Neptune Boulevard will remain at 25 mph near East Elementary School. By creating smoother traffic flow with synchronized stoplights, police hope to encourage drivers to use Park Avenue instead of speeding through side streets.

The remaining traffic lights on Park Avenue lack the hardware to be synchronized with the rest of the city. City officials hope to have improvements made, in addition to pedestrian crossing signals, in the next three years.


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