Should the speed limit in front of a school be as high as 50 miles an hour? It can be and three local state legislators say that is not good.
Most Western New York residents are used to signs in front of schools calling for, perhaps, 15 miles per hour traveling speed. Now there is an effort to change the rules for these zones because of the rural speed limits in front of some schools.
The effort is being led by Sen. Robert Ortt in response to an Orleans County school in Kendall with a 50-mile-per-hour speed limit posted out front. Assemblymember Ray Walter also has a Niagara County school in Mapleton with the limit at 40 miles an hour out front.
Ortt, Walter and Assemblymember Angelo Morinello are filing legislation for a local option system at schools. It would allow a county the option of setting a lower speed limit in front of school buildings.
Walter said many legislators represent urban areas where cars traveling that fast are not an issue.
"In some of the more rural areas, you've got spots where it's 40 miles an hour," said Walter. "On Mapleton Road in Pendleton, in front of Starpoint, there it's 40 miles per hour and that's just too fast. So if it's 40, people are driving 45 or 50 and we want to be able to lower that down to 25 miles an hour."
Walter and Ortt tried last year to get a lower speed limit just in front of Starpoint, but the bill did not make it out of the Assembly Transportation Committee. Without legislation, the state Department of Transportation will continue to set the limits under standard rules.
"The DOT has their counts and their specific metrics that they use and they are not going to change it if it doesn't fall within those prescribed metrics," said Walter. "Unfortunately, that might work on a statewide basis, but on these individualized bases we want to be able to have the county or the local municipality make the decision."
Walter said local governments should have the option to override the DOT.
"There is always a concern cause many of the Democratic legislators who are in the majority in the Assembly come from much more urban districts where this is not an issue," he said. "So we're going to have to reach across the aisle and talk to some of our colleagues there in other parts of the state and see if we can get this through the Assembly."