A sign along Lewiston’s Main Street near the Lewis & Clark Hotel provides an important, but often missed, instruction for drivers entering one of the community’s retail districts.
The sign shows the speed limit is 20 mph. A digital sign across the street shows drivers how fast they are going.
I drive the road almost every weekday on my way to work, but didn’t realize how slow I was supposed to go until a reader called the Tribune asking about the speed limit. That prompted me to want to find out more, especially because I didn’t know of anywhere outside of school zones where the speed limit is 20 mph.
It turns out the speed limit was lowered from 25 to 20 mph two years ago on the one-way section of Main Street that runs roughly from the Lewis & Clark Hotel to 11th Street.
The change happened when the digital sign installed a couple years earlier wasn’t working for about six months, which made it harder to educate the public, said city of Lewiston engineer Shawn Stubbers.
The speed reduction was implemented on a stretch of the road that poses a chronic challenge for city officials, because it is one of Lewiston’s busiest places for vehicle and foot traffic, Stubbers said.
Drivers might be hurrying through downtown on their way to work and focusing on getting into the right-hand lane before the one-way street turns into a two-way road. Pedestrians could be out for a leisurely stroll, browsing store displays, sipping coffee or using one of nine crosswalks in the shopping area.
Setting the speed limit at 20 mph could help, in part because drivers are able to stop more quickly, reducing the chances a pedestrian crossing the street will get seriously hurt in an accident, Stubbers said.
Reducing the speed limit was part of a plan that also involved adding diagonal parking, said Beautiful Downtown Lewiston Executive Director Courtney Kramer.
“We’re looking to create a pedestrian-friendly environment downtown,” Kramer said. “Cars going through at 32 mph don’t create a feeling of safety.”
So far the results appear to be mixed, based on anecdotal feedback, she said. Generally, motorists seem to be easing up on the gas pedal where the lanes were narrowed for diagonal parking, but many may still be speeding in other sections.
More measures are on the way to make it easier for pedestrians to navigate Main Street through a $300,000 grant of federal money administered by the state of Idaho.
A constantly flashing yellow light at a crosswalk at Brackenbury Square is being changed so it’s pedestrian activated. The hope is motorists will pay more attention to the signal if they know people are using the crosswalk when the light is illuminated, Stubbers said.
Two more will be added along Main Street. One will be near where the road goes back two-way travel near 11th Street, and a second will be installed near Jollymore’s: A Dining Experience restaurant, he said.
How much those and other improvements help will ultimately be determined by motorists, Kramer said.
“We’re depending on drivers to be aware of what’s happening.”
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