Summary: Winter Springs Commissioner Ted Johnson ignored the counsel of Police Chief Tracht and made a motion to change the speed limit along Winter Springs Blvd, without adhering to state law, and ignoring the recommendations of two separate taxpayer-funded traffic studies which did not recommend the change.
Note: This article contains a factual analysis of the legality of the City of Winter Springs lowering of the speed limit along Winter Springs Blvd. No opinion regarding the reasonable speed limit is expressed or implied.
Florida state law requires a municipality to establish a speed limit of 30 MPH in a residential area unless a study conducted in compliance with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) recommends a lower speed limit.
In the exact wording of Florida Statute 316.189, a city may lower the speed limit below the minimum of 30 MPH only “after investigation determines such a change is reasonable and in conformity to criteria promulgated by the Department of Transportation.”
On July 14, residents who noted the posted speed limit had been changed from 30 MPH to 25 MPH on Winter Springs Blvd sent an information request to the City Clerk to supply a copy of the FDOT-compliant study and its findings which supported the speed limit change as required by state law.
The city supplied information related to the votes taken by the commission and recommendations made by city staff to implement other safety-related measures in lieu of lowering the speed limit. However, no study recommending lowering the speed limit was ever produced.
Agenda In Search of Data
It is no secret several commissioners, including Ted Johnson, have long desired a lower speed limit along Winter Springs Blvd, and repeatedly sought studies to justify the change. Two separate studies were conducted to make recommendations for traffic safety enhancements. Both studies stopped short of recommending lowering the speed limit.
The first such study was undertaken in 2020 by Kittelson & Associates. As a result of this study, the city commission recommended the staff explore further options, including developing techniques in partnership with Kimley-Horn, which included speed humps and intersection re-alignment. No recommendation for lowering the speed limit was made.
After seeing the presentation on April 25, 2022, and apparently not receiving a recommendation to lower the speed limit, commissioners again complained about speeds along Winter Springs Blvd, according to approved meeting minutes. No recommendation to lower the speed limit was made.
During this same time, the Winter Springs Police Department was in the middle of an extensive 180-day traffic study, which was conducted between January and July of 2022, which analyzed speeding, stop sign violations, and crashes. As a result of this study, staff recommended only implementing the recommendations suggested by the previous study.
The Police department’s recommendations for Winter Springs Blvd included raised intersections, enhanced crosswalks, and widening bike lanes. Having analyzed traffic data for 180 days, the Winter Springs Police Department did not recommend lowering the speed limit along Winter Springs Blvd.
Disregard of Staff, Police Input
Upon receiving a second study that failed to recommend lowering the speed limit, certain city commissioners were not to be deterred. On March 13, 2023, Commissioner Ted Johnson again raised the issue.
According to official city minutes, after the issue was again raised by Commissioner Johnson, Interim City Manager Phil Hursh sought to address the concerns and “noted the planned raising of intersections along Winter Springs Blvd” as the recommendation of the city Police study, in the absence of lowering the speed limit. Police Chief Tracht also “recommended installation of devices and collected data to inform any decision on the speed limit.”
This was not good enough for Commissioner Johnson. Despite having conducted two studies that did not recommend lowering the speed limit, and against the input of the Interim City Manager and Chief of Police, Commissioner Ted Johnson made a motion to approve lowering the speed limit, and it was passed by the commission at the March 13, 2023 meeting.
Had the city commission followed the advice of its own Police Chief, and instead collected more data to investigate decisions on the speed limit, an FDOT-compliant study may have been conducted to ensure the lowering of the speed limit was done in compliance with state law.
As it stands today, the current posted speed limit of 25 MPH for Winter Springs Blvd was done without an FDOT-compliant study required by state law, a result of a motion made against the advice of the city's Police Chief, and ignored two separate studies which failed to recommend the change.