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Why do some residential roads in Wilmington have a 35 mph speed limit while others have a 25 mph speed limit?

Ken Little

Randall Glazier, traffic signs and markings engineering manager for the City of Wilmington’s Traffic Engineering Division, said N.C. General Statute 20-141-(b) sets the maximum speed for all vehicles inside municipal corporate limits at 35 mph.

A sub-paragraph of the statute allows the City Council to change the speed limit of a road by ordinance.

“This means all roads within the city (have speed limits of) 35 miles per hour unless changed by an ordinance,” Glazier said.

He said the roads that are posted for a 25 mph speed limit have been changed by ordinance.

“A number of years ago, the city had a Neighborhood Traffic Program that studied neighborhood traffic and provided recommendations for traffic calming. Lowering the speed limit to 25 mph was often one of the recommendations,” Glazier said.

The lower speed limit was frequently used in combination with other “hardscape changes,” such as the chokers installed on Waltmoor Road and the mini-circles on Tanbridge Road, both designed to affect driver behavior.

“Most roads that have a 25 mph speed limit within the city resulted from this program,” Glazier said.

He added that a commonly asked question by the public is why an ordinance was not enacted to change all residential streets to 25 mph.

Glazier said Federal Highway Administration studies of the effect of raising and lowering speed limits determined that only changing the speed limit on a road “does not significantly affect driver behavior.”

“This conclusion has been supported by traffic studies on local streets completed by city of Wilmington staff. City documents show that city staff has been endeavoring to effect neighborhood traffic calming at least since the early 1970s,” Glazier said.

“The main inference from this effort is that changing driver behavior is extremely difficult and costly without significant buy-in and cooperation from residents,” he added.

User-contributed question by:
Bill Malchano

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One Response to “ Why do some residential roads in Wilmington have a 35 mph speed limit while others have a 25 mph speed limit?”

  1. On July 14, 2016 at 12:09 pm Roscoe wrote:

    Since the Tanbridge Rd. mini-circle was mentioned let me just say that it has not helped driver behavior, but made it worse. In fact, mini-circles and the other cement traffic calming devices in the neighborhood put us all in more danger. Drivers speed around the circle, drive over it, go the wrong way to save 2 seconds, don’t yield, cut bicyclists off, etc. The 25 mph speed limit is somewhat helpful, except for those rude, dangerous drivers who ignore the law.

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