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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Speed limit on High Drive returned to 30 mph; streets around parks may stay at 20 mph

Vehicles travel along High Drive at Manito Boulevard, under a 20 mph speed limit in November, 2021, in Spokane. The Spokane City Council voted on Monday to reset the speed limit on High Drive at 30 mph.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

A higher speed limit is coming to High Drive, but the streets around several city parks could remain at 20 mph.

The Spokane City Council unanimously agreed to raise the speed limit on High Drive from 20 mph back to 30 mph, heeding the recommendation of city officials who tracked cars speeding down High Drive despite the lower limit.

But the speed limits on streets around several city parks, including Manito and Shadle, may stay put at 20 mph.

The decision was forced by the conclusion of a two-year pilot program to limit the speed of motorists around city parks and along the popular multi-use trail on High Drive.

The program was proposed in 2020 by Councilwoman Lori Kinnear, who noted the throngs of people using parks following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, she sought her colleagues’ approval to leave the speed limit at 20 mph around a dozen city parks, but the plan hit a legal snag.

A traffic study may be required to lower limits on streets surrounding a park that does not meet the legal definition of a playground or recreational facility, City Attorney Michael Ormsby explained to the council on Monday.

As an example, Ormsby pointed to the Nishinomiya Tsutakawa Japanese Garden in Manito Park, which abuts Bernard Street.

“Does Japanese Gardens fit the definition of a recreational or playground facility? If it (does) you don’t need to do a study, if it doesn’t, you do” to lower the speed limit, Ormsby said.

The council deferred a vote on the parks speed limit by one month to allow city staff time to review which parks would require a traffic study in order to have the surrounding speed limit lowered.

But the speed limit on High Drive, which had also been lowered to 20 mph, was reverted back to 30 mph.

A traffic study presented to the City Council last November showed that most drivers were ignoring the lower speed limit anyway; the average speed was above 30 mph.

City officials initially presented a 35 mph limit as an option, but the council opted to return to a 30 mph limit on High Drive from 21st Avenue all the way south until Manito Boulevard.

“Other stuff has to be done there to keep it safe – to be determined,” Kinnear said.