Manassas hopes to improve traffic safety around schools

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City officials in Manassas are exploring whether to raise the school speed limit in two zones while possibly pairing the increased speeds with speed camera enforcement.

Manassas police and City Council are moving ahead with a plan that could start photo speed enforcement in front of Round Elementary School and Metz Middle School next school year. The two schools are the only in the city where the limit drops to 15 mph during school hours, but the plan is to actually increase those limits to 25.

Police Chief Doug Keen said the lower limit makes it more difficult to win convictions in court because it’s so low, and the areas go from 35 to 25 and then to 15 mph quickly, so the hope is that the higher limit will gain more compliance while the cameras serve as enforcement.

Speed cameras were allowed in Virginia for the first time last year after a 2020 law legalized their use in work and school zones. Last year, Manassas began the use of red-light cameras at select intersections.

Keen said the city will have to first conduct speed and traffic engineering studies before changing the limits. He said that with the number of stop signs and red lights in the area, speeding can be kept in check around the schools and that other school zones in the city have 25 mph limits.

“We have to keep our children safe at school,” Keen told the council at a work session Monday night. “There’s also traffic-control devices – red lights and stop signs in both areas keeping the speed down as well. We are looking at all of that but being more consistent is going to help us … with compliance.”

City Council first raised the idea of starting photo enforcement in school zones at its most recent retreat earlier this year. On Monday, the council gave Keen and the rest of city staff the go-ahead on the plan. Along with the traffic studies, the city will conduct outreach with families in the schools and residents in the area.

As with the red light cameras the police department has begun using, the plan would give drivers a 30-day grace period where cops only issue warnings if caught by the speed cameras.

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