Largo to tackle residential speeding on street-by-street basis

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Some homeowners in Largo are fed up with drivers racing through their neighborhoods. Monday night, the city commissioners met to vote on whether to reduce the speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 on all residential streets - nearly 700 of them. But, not everyone, including the Police Chief, agreed that was the best answer.

After hearing arguments from all sides, commissioners agreed that a one-size-fits-all approach isn't best. Instead, they're promising to tackle speed issues on a street-by-street basis.

Barbara Johnson sees it every day -- drivers cruising well over the 30 mile per hour limit on 14th Avenue Northwest.

"They come from the end of the street and they go zooming through here," Johnson said. "I don't know if they don't realize there's a speed limit or they don't care."

Neighbors have tried their own enforcement tactics to no avail.

"We stood here and to everybody going by, we're going," Johnson said as she waved her hands, "trying to slow everybody down. They'd run over us."

That's one example that led Largo city commissioners to consider dropping speeds from 30 to 25 on all 696 residential streets. Abiding by state statutes, a speed study found it would be a "reasonable" move, though, pricey. New signs would cost $36,000.

"Signs are going to help," said Mike Hoffman during Tuesday night's public comment portion. "Ultimately, speed tables are going to be the answer."

"I feel that a reduction in the speed of neighborhoods will do nothing but help the kids feel less scared about playing in the neighborhood," said 11-year-old Matilda Hoffman.

Geoff Moakley spoke against the reduction.

"If this commission passes this 25 mile per hour speed reduction, hang onto your hats, folks," Moakley said. "It'll be another example of this commission imposing needless restrictions on the citizens of Largo."

Police Chief Jeff Understad presented data showing that in 2018, there were a total of 125 crashes on all city roads. Only 5 happened on residential streets. 

Undestad noted that the average mile per hour over the speed limit on residential roads is 2.84 mph. He's previously told city leaders that the 5 mph reduction would have "no value."

"If your ultimate goal is to slow people down, you need to create something that's going to have them slow down," Undestad said. 

The commission debated that one street might benefit from signs. Another could benefit from speed tables. And, others may not have a problem.

"These folks that come up and they've got a special need in that neighborhood, we could legally put the roads in that neighborhood at 25 and leave of the city alone?" asked Commissioner Curtis Holmes. 

"Yes, sir," said Jerald Woloszynski, City Engineer.

The commission voted unanimously to deny the ordinance. Instead, they're taking a custom approach, handling speed on a street-by-street basis. 

"I really want to make sure we do something about this," said Commissioner Donna Holck.

Barbara Johnson hopes her street will be one of them.

"I think it's great. I wouldn't care if they lowered it to 20," Johnson said. "I'm hoping. All I can do is just hope and pray they do."

The commission wants to hear from neighbors about problem residential roads that could use speed limit reduction from 30 to 25, or other traffic calming measures.Sixty percent of the people who live along the road in question must be in favor of the change.