The Payson Town Council last week refused to boost the speed limit on South Rim Club Parkway to 35 miles an hour, spurning resident requests and the town’s own traffic study.
Council members cited concerns about the future impact of the turnout for a third fire station and even the eventual construction of a four-year college campus in refusing to act on the request from residents to boost the speed limit on the stretch of road south of Highway 260.
A traffic study showed that the great majority of drivers now go 37 to 39 miles an hour on the street, which has few connecting streets or driveways. However, the speed limit stands at 25 miles an hour.
The default speed limit for streets throughout town is 25 miles an hour, but earlier the council had boosted the speed limit on most of the connecting North Tyler Parkway to 35 miles an hour, to provide drivers with an easy way to get from one end of town to the other without driving on the highway.
However, concerns arose about whether the higher speed limit would have an impact on the town’s third fire station, now in the planning stages. Fire trucks would have to turn out onto South Rim Club Parkway, which could impact traffic — although fire stations often have flashing red lights to stop traffic when trucks leave the station.
Payson Mayor Kenny Evans asked “if the fire station and the college come in, will this come back to us?” to perhaps lower the speed limit back to 25 miles an hour.
That prompted a brief discussion about the difficulty of first raising and then lowering the speed limit.
Evans concluded. “The urgency here is my concern. I feel like a juggler with so many balls in the air. Is there an urgency to make this happen?”
“Not from my point of view,” said Public Works Director LaRon Garrett.
Normally, cities try to set speed limits that match the speed a “reasonable and prudent” driver would go on a given street. South Rim Club Parkway between Highway 260 and East Rim Club Pass currently is fronted mostly by undeveloped property and the four residential subdivisions along the route don’t have driveways that turn onto the road.
The town has been hit by contradictory complaints about the road — some from residents who fret about speeders, some from residents who want to move traffic along more quickly.
Payson Police Chief Don Engler said officers set up speed enforcement zones along the street and issued a rash of tickets — easy enough to do since most drivers zip along at 10 or 15 miles an hour above the speed limit. However, he said the radar-gunning officers found few people driving faster than 45 miles an hour, which reinforces the traffic engineer’s dictum that most drivers will adjust their speed to the conditions — regardless of the posted speed limit.
Vice Mayor Mike Vogel said most of the calls he’s received came from people upset at having been given a ticket — often people driving along at a legal 35 miles an hour on North Rim Club Parkway who hadn’t even noticed that the speed limit dropped 10 miles an hour once they crossed the highway.
“I’ve had seven to 10 calls — they all thought it was out of line that you cross Highway 260 and suddenly the speed limit is 25. I understand their argument,” concluded Vogel.
On the other hand, he said he’d also heard from people walking along the side of the road in the rural setting who complained about drivers’ speed. Despite the gist of the staff report that accompanied Thursday’s discussion, Garrett wound up suggesting the council let the matter slide.
“I’d be leaning toward ‘let’s re-evaluate when we get to the construction (of the fire station) and see if it’s warranted,’” said Garrett. So the council moved on down the agenda without voting, after Evans concluded, “by doing nothing, we’ll be rejecting it.”