Council lowers South Sixth Street speed limit

Drivers on South Sixth Street south of Merle Hibbs Boulevard will have to watch their speed from now on. With the Marshalltown City Council’s passing the third reading of a resolution Monday night, the street will see its speed limit reduced from 45 mph to 35 mph.

Discussion began back in late 2012 when a group of concerned citizens came to the council advocating a stop sign at the intersection, saying the heightened speed limit posed a threat to pedestrians.

The council tabled the conversation in November until the Public Works Department completed a speed study determining how fast people typically travel down the stretch of road. The three-day speed study revealed that 85 percent of people drive 40 mph down the street.

Lynn Couch, Public Works director, previously told the council that a study of the collisions at the intersection showed that at least seven of the 14 crashes in the past decade at the intersection were preventable. Although Marshalltown already has 941 stop signs, Couch said the accident history would warrant a stop sign at the intersection.

However, Couch said, a stop sign would also congest traffic.

“The purpose of Sixth Street is to provide through traffic,” he said. “You don’t want a bunch of stop signs.”

Installing a stop sign would alleviate the need to lower the speed limit, he said. Putting down rumble strips is not something the street department does in the city. Public Works Departments typically reserve strips for open areas where the strips cue the driver that he or she is approaching a stop sign, making the strips not a viable alternative to a speed limit reduction or stop sign.

Decreasing the speed limit would reduce the amount of car crashes along the road and limit the severity of those crashes, Couch added.

In mid-January, the council voted unanimously to reject installing the stop sign, instead opting to lower the speed limit from 45 mph to 35 mph. The speed limit on the road has been 45 mph for at least 15 years.

Joel Greer, second-ward council member, voted against decreasing the speed limit Monday night.

“I am all for having the speed limit be 35 mph at the intersection (of Merle Hibbs and South Sixth Street) and even a block south of that,” he said. “I don’t think it needs to be 35 all along Sixth Street.”

Greer said if it had come down to his vote as to whether to reduce the speed limit, he would have likely voted in favor of the reduction.

The speed limit will be reduced following the publication of the ordinance change, but the City Clerk was also unavailable Tuesday to provide the date.

Randy Wetmore, city administrator, said the publication should be sometime next week, and the speed limit would change within a week of the publication.