Concerns about lead-footed drivers
The people of Winthrop would like everyone — visitors and locals alike — to just slow down.
The subject of speeding drivers, heading into and out of town in a variety of directions, came up again at last week’s Winthrop Town Council meeting. While the focus was on tourists, council members noted that some locals seem to be lead-foots on Winthrop streets as well.
Mayor Sally Ranzau said she’s heard complaints about speeders coming into town on Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road, as motorists avoided recent construction on Highway 20. The speed limit drops from 50 mph to 25 mph at the town limits. But many drivers don’t decelerate and, even more annoyingly, some shoot straight up Castle Avenue without slowing down much.
Some Castle Avenue residents have put up their own signs, reminding drivers that “It’s still 25 mph.”
Mike Pruett, who works at Winthrop Cycle and Sport on Highway 20 at the west end of town, told the council that he estimated the average speed past the bike shop is 40 to 50 mph, in an area where there are lots of cyclists and pedestrians.
“They come roaring through in both directions,” Pruett said. Drivers leaving town accelerate as soon as they get to the Winthrop Barn, he said. “It’s appalling to watch people come blazing through.”
“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” Pruett added.
A couple of years ago, the council heard complaints about chronic speeding at the other end of town, especially between the eastern town limits and the Methow River bridge. Over an eight-day period in June 2016, the Washington State Department of Transportation found that the average vehicle speed was 43 mph in the stretch of highway where the speed limit is 25 mph. Of the 44,375 vehicles that passed through the study area during that period, more than 12,000 were driving between 30 mph and 40 mph, more than 27,000 were driving between 40 mph and 50 mph, and a few were driving as fast as 70 mph to 80 mph.
Ranzau noted that the town has one electronic sign that tells approaching drivers how fast they are going, and the sign is deployed at various places around town. She said she will propose that next year’s town budget include funds for several more signs. The mayor said some of them could be permanently installed in speeder hot spots.
Councilmember Bill McAdow, who lives on Bluff Street, said he sees a lot speeding past his house as well. McAdow said he would like the town to more aggressively approach the speeding issue. “I would like to see more tickets handed out,” he said.
In other public comments, Richard Pattison, who lives in the Rendezvous area, said that while most stores in Winthrop are complying with state coronavirus countermeasure directives to require employees and customers to wear masks, some are not. He said the town’s overall good effort “is being undermined by a few.”
“I feel the community as a whole needs to be aware of the posture some businesses are taking,” Pattison said. He suggested that “subtle pressure” from the community might help.
Ranzau said that most people are complying and noted that the Methow Valley infection rate remains low.
Councilmember Ben Nelson, who said he has also seen signs in some businesses claiming that the government doesn’t have the authority to order that masks be worn, said “now is not the time to be lax” and that the town needs to be more responsive.
Ranzau said she would contact business owners who are displaying signs claiming that masks are not required.