Middleburg weighs lower speed limits in historic downtown

Under the proposal, the speed limit on Washington Street -- Route 50, the man road through Middleburg -- would be reduced from 25 miles per hour to 20.(WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Next time you visit historic Middleburg, Virginia, you may notice something different — and if you don’t notice, it could cost you.

The Middleburg Town Council is considering a proposal by Police Chief Shaun Jones to lower the speed limit in several streets in the downtown area, known for its boutiques and restaurants

Under the police chief’s proposal, which was discussed at the June 27 council meeting, the speed limit on Washington Street — Route 50, the main road through Middleburg — would be reduced from 25 mph to 20.

On three nearby side streets — Madison, Marshall and Federal — the top speed would be reduced to 15 miles per hour.

Jones told the council members that studies have shown the risk of pedestrians being hit by cars is greatly reduced, when the speed limit is lowered.

Some council members questioned whether a 15 mph speed limit on side streets, and 20 mph on Washington Street was practical. According to Jones’ proposal, “Reducing the speed from 25 mph to 20 mph on Washington Street through Middleburg’s Historic District will only increase the time to drive through Town by 16 seconds.”

The new proposal comes as a new Virginia law — HB1071 — includes a clause that towns and cities can “Reduce the speed limit to less than 25 miles per hour, but not less than 15 miles per hour, on any highway within its boundaries that is located in a business district or residence district, provided that such reduced speed limit is indicated by lawfully placed signs,” that the town would pay for.

Jones’ proposal said the new signage would cost approximately $10,000.

The proposal includes mentions of other proposals, generated by town staff, for enhancing safety. Those ideas include speed bumps, narrowed shoulders, a raised median and pedestrian-activated crossing lights. The proposal said most of the alternatives would require coordination with the Virginia Department of Transportation, which maintains U.S. Route 50.

The town manager said the staff would finalize recommendations and prepare an ordinance for the council’s consideration in July.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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