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The recent federal decision that gives states the authority to determine maximum speed limits presumably means the states will now confer with local entities who should know what speed is safe for a given roadway. It will be interesting to see if the decision will also give Landscape Architects greater opportunity to introduce traffic calming techniques to roadway projects--that is, speed-enforcing elements that enable a community to maintain or reduce traffic speeds independent of the design speed of the roadway.

Jim Klein, ASLA, of Lardner/Klein, leader of the team of landscape architects and land planners who recently developed corridor guidelines for the Connecticut Department of Transportation,(see LASN, November 1995), said the federal decision will probably not affect speed limits along Route 169 where the towns have already acted on corridor decisions that preserve small-town community values. The traffic consultant for the same study, Ken Kruckemeyer, called traffic calming a real "balancing act," and responded to LASN's query with a case in point: The German autobahn has the "rigeur of design and behavioral standards," a interplay between the physical and psychological means of traffic calming that maintains safe speeds without numerical limits. "Speed limits would not be the issue if personal responsibility could be [expected] of drivers. . . ," added Kruckemeyer, "[but] back road speeding is in real conflict with geography and human settlement."

As for the apparent dominance of the automobile vs. community values in roadway design, Kruckemeyer commented, "In states where states dominate, the [new] law provides a precedent . . . or opportunity . . . to establish local desires. . . . " from which LASN construes potential opportunities for Landscape Architects to play a greater role in the health, safety and welfare of travellers on public roads.

The media conclusion that the new National Highway System (NHS) Act means unlimited speeds (heard on the nightly news) is erroneous. Even in Montana, whose Department of Transportation (MDOT) spokesperson confirmed it is "the only state to have no [daytime] speed limit," the NHS act means all speed laws effectively revert to Basic Speed Law that was in effect in 1974. A spokesperson for the MDOT said the state's decision to post no maximum speeds during daylight hours is based on the premise that "people have the ability to make judgment calls," and there are stiff enforcement fines for violating "reasonable and prudent manner" clauses including type of roadway or traffic pattern; conditions of vehicle, roadway and weather; weight load of vehicle; and exceptions for towing, construction, and other posted zones.

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June 18, 2019, 8:44 am PDT

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