With the twist of a couple of bolts Wednesday morning, Salt Lake City swapped the first of hundreds of speed limit signs in an initiative to slow down traffic across Utah’s capital.
The City Council voted unanimously in May to lower the residential area speed limit from 25 mph to 20 mph. The decision affects about 70% of the city’s streets — more than 400 miles of roadway. The city will change out 575 speed limit signs.
“These signs will signal to drivers in our city that we want our kids to get to school safely. We want our neighbors to make it home from work without incident,” Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in a news release. “But signage alone will not make our streets safer. It will take each driver in our city being committed to slowing down, staying alert and never driving under the influence.”
Sweet Streets Salt Lake City, the driving force behind the initiative, argued a 20 mph speed limit saves lives and promotes walking, biking and transit.
According to the city, studies have shown reducing speeds lowers the potential for losing control of a car, decreases stopping distance, reduces severe crash injuries and trims fuel consumption.
Salt Lake City Council Chair Dan Dugan said in the release that a default 20 mph limit does little to hinder travel times but does improve safety and livability of neighborhoods.
The city explained the speed limit reduction was only the first step in achieving safer streets. The council recently adopted a budget that includes funding for a program that seeks to reduce traffic speeds through road design.
Mendenhall emerged from quarantine to attend the Wednesday event after revealing publicly last week that she had tested positive for COVID-19. She also attended a news conference Tuesday marking the opening of a new TRAX station.