Drayton Harbor Road speed limit increase petition re-emerges

Published on Fri, Feb 10, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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The issue of upping the speed limit on a section of Drayton Harbor Road has re-emerged as a Whatcom County Council committee plans to discuss the change at its meeting this Tuesday.

The county council Public Works and Safety Committee will discuss increasing the speed limit from 25 mph to 35 mph on Drayton Harbor Road from Harborview Road west to the Blaine city limits. The discussion comes as a result of a citizens’ petition filed in October of last year.

Blaine resident Al Mason submitted the petition with approximately six dozen names to county engineer Joe Rutan on October 30. After learning about the process for changing the speed limit, which involves a traffic study and public hearing, Mason said he no longer wanted to seek the change since it would unnecessarily tax county public works staff (which I reported on here).

But according to Rutan, Mason later decided he wanted to move forward after he learned work on the traffic study had already begun. Rutan said the next step will be the traffic and public safety committee meeting on Tuesday, February 14, starting at 1:30 p.m., and an eventual public hearing on the issue.

The results of the traffic study, which can be found here, discovered most people driving that stretch of Drayton Harbor Road already travel at or around 35 mph. Rutan said people will often travel the speed they feel comfortable with on a given road, so the majority of drivers going 35 mph on the road suggests it can handle that speed.

Rutan said the county council, not the county public works department, sets speed limits, since speed limits are a matter of law. Public works staff merely provide a technically recommendation, and in this case are not recommending against the change to 35 mph.

“On a technical basis only, we’re not adverse to that 35 mph increase,” Rutan said.

The speed increase may make the road safer to travel, since it will decrease the range of speeds people drive on the road. Currently, for example, a resident pulling out of their driveway onto Drayton Harbor Road cannot know for sure if an oncoming car is traveling 25 mph or 35 mph. The increased speed limit would give these residents a better idea of what to expect when leaving their homes, Rutan explained.

However, the traffic report found (as I reported here) that no one whose driveway empties onto Drayton Harbor Road signed the petition. Rutan said this fact makes an eventual public hearing on the matter all the more important.

Once the public hearing is scheduled, Rutan said he will send notices to everyone living along the stretch of Drayton Harbor Road. County council members Barbara Brenner, Pete Kremen and Ken Mann will discuss this issue starting at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 14, at the Whatcom County Council chambers in Bellingham. The issue is also scheduled for introduction at Tuesday evening’s county council meeting.

Click here for the council’s full agenda for that meeting.
I used some online mapping software to figure out where most of the people who signed the petition lived in relation to each other. Minus a few outliers in Lynden and Bellingham, this map shows their locations. I've annotated the map to show what the current speed limits are. Photo source: Google Maps. 



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