Town asked agency to consider reduced speeds on Highway 20

Photo courtesy of Winthrop Chamber of Commerce This vintage covered wagon will be placed at the east entrance of Winthrop to welcome visitors.

Photo courtesy of Winthrop Chamber of Commerce
This vintage covered wagon will be placed at the east entrance of Winthrop to welcome visitors.

By Don Nelson

Reducing the speed limit on parts of Highway 20 through Winthrop won’t necessarily slow drivers down without increased enforcement, a Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) representative told the Town Council last week.

The town had earlier asked WSDOT to consider making the speed limit 25 miles per hour the entire length of Highway 20 through town. Currently, the speed limit is 35 mph between the town’s eastern limit and East 20 Pizza, where it is reduced to 25.

Terry Berend, representing WSDOT, told the council at its meeting last week that changing speed limits is a complicated process that includes a speed study, engineering study and collision data assessment.

Berend noted that there have been few speed-related collisions on the portion of highway being considered for a lower speed limit. At the same time, an earlier study indicated that the average vehicle speed through that part of town is 43 miles per hour.

“Enforcement will be a big part of getting the speed down,” Berend said. “You won’t get it down just by posting new signs.”

“Enforcement is the only way you’re going to change it,” council member Rick Northcott agreed.

Berend said that WSDOT would prefer to see a transition zone dropping from the highway speed of 60, then down to 35 before slowing to 25. “Going from 60 to 25 is a bad idea,” he said. “Nothing good is going to come of that.”

Council members have previously said they don’t want Winthrop to develop a reputation as a speed trap.

Kristen Smith, marketing director for the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber will be creating as “gateway entrance” at the east end of town that may encourage people to slow down.

The gateway will include an antique covered wagon purchased from Winthrop resident Karen Patterson, who has owned it for many years, Smith said.

Smith said the wagon has been well preserved and is in good shape. She said it will likely be installed next spring.

Smith has been among those lobbying for a lower speed limit to make the highway, which has narrow shoulders in many spots, safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The council took no action. Mayor Anne Acheson said the town will be in contact with WSDOT to determine how to proceed. “We need to better define it,” she said.