Seattle's transportation director pushes for lower speed limits in city

SEATTLE -- Just when you thought Seattle traffic couldn’t get any slower, the city of Seattle wants to lower speed limits on thousands of miles you drive on.

“Asking people to slow down just a little bit,” Seattle Department of Transportation Director Scott Kubly said.

It all comes down to safety.

All arterial streets in the downtown core will go from 30 to 25 mph. Places outside the city center, like Aurora Avenue, will not be affected.

But all residential streets no matter where you live in Seattle will go from 25 to 20 mph.

“Everyone with kids, I think, would be in favor,” Queen Anne resident Erica Cohen said.

But what does it mean for drivers?

According to the traffic-research organization Inrix, residential streets will take 2 minutes longer to maneuver if you consider the average Seattle trip of 3.5 miles.

For arterial streets like Mercer St, it will be 1 minute 24 seconds longer for every 3.5 miles you drive.

Many say the longer commute is worth it.

“It’s very dangerous to be a pedestrian in this town,” John Mensher said.

But some need a little time to get used to the idea.

“I don’t see how this could possibly benefit anybody,” driver Daniel Sarfati said.

Sarfati believes drivers will have a hard time adjusting to slower speeds.

But doctors say even a 5-mph reduction will save lives

“If you get hit by car going 20 miles per hour, your risk of getting serious injuries is less than 5 percent,” Dr. Beth Ebel said.

Ebel says the impact at 40 mph is like falling off a three-story building.

That’s why Kubly is taking his plan to the City Council later this month.

So far council member Tim Burgess says the proposal has a lot of support.

“I don’t think it will be controversial, because city council has endorsed the Vision Zero strategy,” Burgess said.

If the council approves the measure, the lower speed limits will go into effect in November.

The new proposal is part of Seattle’s Vision Zero, a plan to end traffic deaths and serious injuries on city streets by 2030.

Every year, 20 people in the city are killed in car crashes, another 150 are badly hurt.

The city says speed contributes to 25% of collisions citywide and 42% of downtown traffic fatalities.