The state Senate has approved a bill that would let towns set speed limits on their own roads, without having to petition the state Department of Transportation.
The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury. Current law requires that most towns seek approval from DOT to set or alter speed limits on town roads and highways. Villages, cities and about 80 large towns are exempt from the rule.
"A change in law would provide relief from a mandate that costs them time and money unnecessarily," Little said in an emailed statement.
The legislation would amend state Vehicle and Traffic Law to allow towns to set maximum speed limits on town highways considered "local roads," although those limits would need to be less than 55 miles per hour, in accordance with state law.
The bill would require that towns seeking to set maximum speed limits meet "engineering specifications and other factors applicable to speed limits." Towns would also have to have speed limit changes certified by a "licensed professional engineer specializing in traffic operations."
That part could prove tricky for cash-strapped towns.
Harrietstown town Supervisor Larry Miller told the Enterprise that requiring a town to hire an engineer that specializes in traffic operations could be another unfunded mandate on local government, although he stressed that he has limited knowledge of the new law and would need to review it in greater detail before coming to a final conclusion.
Miller noted that in the past, the costs for the town to request a DOT study were minimal.
"It was a form that was filled out along with a letter of explanation, along with a resolution from the town," he said. "Then the state would expend the funds necessary to perform the evaluation. Thus, little or no cost to the town."
According to Miller, Harrietstown has made several attempts to lower speed limits on town roads, including Kiwassa Road, Coreys Road and Donaldson Road. He said the town has also lobbied for lower speed limits on at least two county roads within town limits: Forest Home and McMaster.
Requests to lower speed limits, specifically on the two county roads, have been rejected by the state, Miller said.
The Senate bill would give towns the option to let DOT retain jurisdiction for setting maximum speed limits. A companion bill is being sponsored in the Assembly by Addie Russell, D-Theresa.