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Fredericksburg aims to lower downtown speed limits to protect pedestrians

A view of Downtown Fredericksburg from above Hurkamp Park [Photo: Fredericksburg City]

The Fredericksburg City Council is finalizing plans to reduce the speed in the downtown business district from 25 mph to 20 mph.
If passed, this change would affect roads going through the downtown business district which includes Caroline, Sophia, William streets, and Lafayette Boulevard. Those streets are among the most well-traveled in the city and have a high volume of pedestrians.

Before the speed reduction's passage, Ward 2 Councilmember Jonathan Gerlach expressed concerns he'd received from constituents about traffic safety and what other solutions Fredericksburg would be exploring in near future. Gerlach was in favor of the speed reduction and voted for its passage.

City Manager Timothy Baroody responded to Gerlach that regular talks are being held about creating safe environments around Fredericksburg. Possibilities such as reversing one-way traffic into two-way traffic and creating additional bump-out structures to reduce speed not just downtown but throughout the city are on the table.

Baroody also informed the council that the Fredericksburg City Police Department has increased the number of speeding citations, issuing nearly 1,000 since October 2021.

Ward 1 Councilmember Jason Graham also spoke on the issue and offered other potential options that could be used on top of speed reductions that could improve public safety.

"The number of accidents and fatalities are increasing, not just in Fredericksburg but around the country," said Graham. "The citations are good, but they're not enough. I hope we take this as an intermediate step, there are other options we can pursue such as designing the streets for the speed we want. We've got a lot of options that are not just for safety but for economic development."

Economic development and public safety are key concerns of the city council that have intertwined with each other over the years as Fredericksburg continues to grow.

According to police spokeswoman Sarah Morris, the reduction in the speed limit has been a regular conversation over the last several years and was helped along by a grant that was gained by the city's Parks, Recreation, and Events Department which it received in 2018.

The grant was used in part to develop plans and shape policies to better manage public safety in the downtown area as a public venue that is quickly emerging. Morris says that the speed reduction falls in line with plans the city has had to improve safety as events such as the construction of Riverside Park and the rebuilding of the Chatham Bridge have proceeded.

"Fredericksburg's historic Downtown is buzzing with new investment and activity, and the City wishes to proactively maintain safety," says Morris. "This new initiative will be complementary to the study soon to be underway that will evaluate "one way" to "two way" street conversions. The City is also analyzing additional traffic calming measures in efforts to create multimodal harmony with the traveling public."

The Fredericksburg City Council will make its final decision on the matter at their meeting on May 1. If approved, the new ordinance would go into effect on July 1, 2022.

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