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The Marble Falls City Council held a public hearing and first reading of a traffic ordinance on Tuesday, Nov. 1, that included dropping residential speed limits from 30 mph to 25 mph and regulating electric scooter rentals in the city. It also approved $7.6 million in certificates of obligation bonds. 

A second hearing on the speed limits and scooter rules is Tuesday, Nov. 15, to give residents a final say before the council approves the ordinance.

Mayor Richard Westerman asked city staff to research the merits of dropping speed limits earlier this year.

“I originally wanted staff to look at this, mainly because I was concerned about the speeds on Main Street,” he said. “There’s a lot of people walking there.”

Using a radar van and other speed-tracking devices, Police Chief Glenn Hanson spent weeks compiling data for an accurate measurement of the average rate of speed across the city.

Hanson’s research shows the majority of drivers tend to go under or at the current speed limit of 30 mph on residential streets.

“We found that, in the areas where we tested, residential areas, the 85th percentile of drivers weren’t even doing the speed limit,” Hanson said. “When we put (the radar) out in a 30-mph zone, they were around the 25-mph target speed limit.”

Only residential streets are being considered. Speeds on feeder roads and state-run highways will remain the same. Residential streets with 20-mph limits, such as La Ventana and Pecan Valley drives, also will stay the same.

Lower speed limits will not mean increased enforcement on residential streets. The police department will continue to focus on the highways stretching through town, Hanson said.

“That’s where we have fatality accidents and horrible injury accidents, instead of in the neighborhoods,” he said. “We respond in the neighborhoods to specific complaints; otherwise, we don’t have the time to proactively be in the neighborhoods to enforce speed limits.”

The city will need to purchase about 65 signs if the speed limit change takes effect. Excluding labor, the overall cost is estimated to be about $3,900.

ELECTRIC SCOOTERS

In the same ordinance, councilors are also considering preemptive rules disallowing electric scooter companies from opening in the city without notice. 

“We also incorporated in this ordinance a prohibition against companies that have scooters for rent from being able to just dump a bunch that are indiscriminate in our town,” Hanson said.

Along with being an “eye-sore,” the scooters also present serious safety concerns, according to the chief.

“The hazard they pose is larger than the benefit,” he said.

The proposed ordinance would not outlaw scooters but rather force companies to sign a written license agreement approved by the City Council before setting up in the city.

If approved on Nov. 15, the new ordinance will officially take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

BONDS

Also during the meeting, councilors approved certificates of obligation bonds totaling more than $7.6 million for a variety of projects, including construction of Parkview and Childers parks, renovations of Fire Station #1, and wastewater treatment plant designs.

Unlike other bonds that must be approved by voters, certificates of obligation bonds only require council approval. The council voted 6-0 to approve the item. Mayor Pro-Tem Dave Rhodes was absent from the meeting.

nathan@thepicayune.com