Wednesday, July 18, 2012

State gets up to speed in Bellevue

ITD to resume authority over small-town speed limits

Express Staff Writer

A police officer monitors traffic at the northern entrance to Bellevue. Some residents and state officials have alleged that parts of Main Street in Bellevue are “speed traps.” Photo by Mountain Express

The Bellevue City Council is bracing for a meeting with Idaho Transportation Department officials that could lead to a rise in speed limits on portions of state Highway 75, which serves as Main Street in the town.

The council has for 15 years controlled speed limits in the city, thanks to a law sponsored by Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, that gave municipalities control of speed limits on state highways in cities.

That law, known as "Wendy's Law," was repealed in March, due in part to pressure from Rep. Leon Smith, R-Twin Falls, a member of the House Transportation and Defense Committee.

Smith claimed in testimony that Bellevue in particular profited from writing speeding tickets due to low speed limits.

However, Bellevue Planning and Zoning Director Craig Eckles said in an interview last spring that speeding citations account for very few dollars of city revenue. On July 12, he said at a City Council meeting that ITD would likely soon order the city to increase speed limits, based on a traffic study scheduled to be released by ITD this summer.

"As we know we no longer have the control," Eckles said. "They have been after Bellevue since 2000 to bring the speed limits up."

Eckles said in an interview Friday that ITD officials are expected to make a presentation to the council on the traffic study by mid-August.

On the more contentious north end of the city, the posted speed limit is 25 mph at Kirtley Street, a street that serves a school and about 80 homes to the west. Across the intersection there is also a connector to the Wood River Trails bicycle path immediately to the east. At present, the northern-most 1,500 feet of the highway in Bellevue city limits is posted at 35 mph.

In other Bellevue news:

( The council is considering moving a "Welcome to Bellevue" sign across Highway 75 onto a grassy berm on city property.

Tony Evans:

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