Casper speed limit changes raise concerns about whimsy of the citizenry - Casper, WY Oil City News
Oil City News Logo

Casper speed limit changes raise concerns about whimsy of the citizenry

A bicyclist crosses the street at Second and Conwell near the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — Speed limits along King Boulevard and East Second Street are accelerating toward increases.

The Casper City Council will still need to approve the changes on one further reading after approving the proposals on second reading Tuesday, Dec. 3.

The proposal includes reverting the portion of East Second Street in front of the Wyoming Medical Center to a 30 mph speed zone.

Article continues below...

King Boulevard between South Poplar Street and West 13th Street would be bumped up to 40 mph.

Citizen Gabriel Green told the council that he wasn’t necessarily opposed to changing the speed limits back, but took the opportunity to raise a challenge democratic forms of decision making face.

“Since Athens, we’ve known that democracies are the most powerful form of government,” Green said, referring to the early Greek city-state. “The weakness of these systems since Athens is that they can’t stick to things very long.”

He said that this may be characteristic of the modern United States.

“Our country is very, very whim based,” Green said. “People don’t trip over mountains, they trip over molehills.”

He said that the data the council was relying on to guide their decisions may come from too short a period of time.

“We get maybe a year or less than a year to try out a new idea,” Green said, suggesting that more time may have allowed for a more richly informed decision.

The council decided to lower the speed limit to 20 mph along East Second Street from South Conwell Street through to the downtown this spring.

While they now appear headed to revert that speed limit to 30 mph, other streets around the WMC will remain as 20 mph zones. Those include:

  • South Conwell Street from East First to East Fifth
  • East Fifth from South McKinley to South Conwell
  • All street between South McKinley and South Conwell and East Second and East Fifth

Changing East Second back to a 30 mph zone and King Boulevard to a 40 mph would come with an estimated $800 cost in signage changes.

City staff recommended leaving the area in front of the Wyoming Medical Center as a 20 mph zone, but reverting the portion of East Second Street between South McKinley Street and South Park Street back to a 30 mph speed zone.

The initial decision to make the speed zone changes in front of the hospital grew out of safety concerns there.

Police Chief Keith McPheeters told the council in October that crashes have gone up since the changes were implemented. He said this might be due to the fact that some drivers are following the 20 mph limits and others are not, making crashes potentially more likely.

He added that drivers looking at cell phones may also be contributing to the increase in accidents.

Since the change went into place this spring, McPheeters said that the available data may not be completely representative of what traffic concerns the area would face over the long-term.

While city staff originally only recommended lowering the speed limit in front of the hospital, city council decided to stretch the 20 mph zone through to the downtown to avoid creating the yo-yo effect of alternating 20 and 30 mph areas.

memo from Police Chief Keith McPheeters and Public Services Director Andrew Beamer says that speed limits are “generally established at the speed at which 85% of traffic is traveling at or below.”

This is done because studies have shown this “yields the lowest crash risk.”

The city has been collecting additional speed data since the change was implemented.

“The 85th percentile speeds have reduced from 34 mph to 28 mph in front of the hospital,” McPheeters and Beamer’s memo states. “This data suggests that the speed reduction in front of the hospital has been marginally effective, with traffic tending to speed up between downtown and the hospital.”

Based on such speed study data, the 30 mph zone in front of the WMC was appropriate, the memo adds.

Beamer told the council the original proposal, however, was based off of the number of crashes in the area and not the average traffic speed there.

Council began to seek public input on speed zones in Casper in September.

If you would like to contact members of the Casper City Council regarding this or any other issue, here is their contact information:

Mayor Charlie Powell (Ward II, Term Expires 1/5/21):

Vice Mayor Shawn Johnson (Ward II, Term expires 1/3/23):

Councilman Ken Bates (Ward II, Term expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Steve Cathey (Ward III, Term Expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Steve Freel (Ward III, Term expires 1/3/23):

Councilman Bob Hopkins (Ward I, Term expires 1/5/21):

Councilman Mike Huber (Ward I, Term expires 1/5/21):

Councilwoman Khrystyn Lutz (Ward I, Term expires 1/3/23):

Councilman Ray Pacheco (Ward III, Term expires 1/3/23):

Council members can also be reached by mail at: 200 N. David Street, 82601

If you would like to contact members in your specific ward, but don’t know which ward you are in, a map is available at the City of Casper’s website.