A little extreme. Phenomenally slow. A speed trap.
All are phrases residents have uttered to describe the 20 mph speed limit that was set along Kasold Drive.
Now that construction is complete, the speed limit has jumped to 40 mph.
But the drivers’ frustration was evident.
About 900 speeding tickets were issued on the nearly mile-long section of road since construction started about 14 months ago.
The number represents 11.5 percent of all speeding tickets handed out during that time, according to data from Lawrence Municipal Court.
Court officials said they hadn’t calculated how much those tickets brought into the city’s coffers.
But consider this:
• The average speeding ticket costs $68.
• Tickets on Kasold are doubled for a violation in a construction zone.
• Court costs run $52.
So the more than 900 tickets issued had the potential of gathering almost $170,000.
But city officials said speeding tickets aren’t about money. It’s about safety and what residents want.
City Manager David Corliss said through surveys, comments to elected officials and pleas at public meetings, it is clear people want stepped-up enforcement of the city’s traffic laws.
“And if you follow through on that, that means we are going to have more people getting speeding tickets,” Corliss said.
Focusing on the limit
In May 2006, crews began working on the $6 million project that rebuilt and repaired Kasold Drive.
Along the section of the road that was under construction — running from Bob Billings Parkway to 22nd Street — houses on the west side are blocked by fences; on the east side, driveways spill out onto the road; the lanes are mostly straight; and there aren’t any stop signs or traffic lights.
“I try to focus on not getting too far above the speed limit,” Dan Coke said Thursday, putting the emphasis on “focus.”
Coke, who lives a couple blocks from Kasold Drive, said the road is one of few options to get from Clinton Parkway to Sixth Street. But, with the 20 mph speed limit, he avoided it “like the plague.”
Shopping at the Hy-Vee Thursday afternoon before the speed limit was raised, west Lawrence resident Becky Orth was surprised to hear that more than 900 speeding tickets had been handed out along the street.
“I had no idea,” she said. “I had just heard a lot of tickets had been given out over there; therefore, I have avoided it.”
Price Banks, whose house backs up along Kasold Drive, said he, too, was frustrated by the low speed limit — mainly because it pushed traffic onto nearby residential streets.
During the construction, Banks said he would have liked to have seen more police patrol the nearby neighborhood instead of only Kasold Drive.
“It’s a lot easier to cut through the neighborhood than to put up with the speed limit,” he said.
Setting the limit
It’s the job of Lawrence Public Works Department to set speed limits on any city street that isn’t under state jurisdiction.
When establishing speed limits in construction zones, there are no rules or specifications.
City Public Works Director Chuck Soules said the decision to set the speed limit to 20 mph along Kasold Drive was based on two-lane traffic flowing so close to construction workers.
“People driving next to construction, they are looking. They don’t have people’s full attention on the road and what they are doing. It’s safer to put it at 20 mph,” Soules said.
Soules doesn’t have much sympathy for the 900 motorists who were ticketed.
“If you are speeding and get caught, you get a ticket. That is the rule of the game,” he said. “You could have signed it for 30 and sat out there and ticketed people going 40.”
Soules focused on what he considered to be one of the most important numbers: Zero workers were injured in traffic accidents.
Soules requested the police department monitor speeds on the street. And, in the beginning, those officers issued warnings, he said.
Lawrence Police Sgt. Paul Fellers said the police also receive requests from the Kansas Department of Transportation and construction supervisors to run radar in work zones.
“Part of our job, obviously, is public safety. And we want to make sure that individuals that are out here working hard and concentrating on their work don’t have to worry abut traffic going through their area,” Fellers said.
Corliss, the city manager, said the alternative to the 20 mph speed limit was completely closing the section of road.
“Then the speed limit would have been zero because we wouldn’t have allowed anybody on it. But we went ahead and allowed people on it, which I thought was the right decision because we wanted to keep traffic moving,” Corliss said.
Now that construction is complete, the new road has a 40 mph speed limit. The road — based on factors such as how straight it is and how far drivers can see ahead — was built for 40 mph speeds, Soules said.
As they do with other new projects, Soules said the city plans to perform speed studies to see what drivers actually travel on the road. It’s possible the speed limit could change after those studies.
Where the money goes
City officials stress that speed limits are set for safety reasons.
But the revenue collected from speeding tickets and other fines go somewhere. A good chunk ends up in the city’s general fund, which is a pot of money dispersed among all city departments.
Of the average $188 fine in a construction zone, $19.50 is directed to state-mandated funds and $32.50 goes for court costs. The rest, the city keeps.
Corliss said the total amount the municipal court brings in from fines — $2 million to $3 million — is a small fraction of the city’s overall $56 million budget.
Orth — who warned others in her family to avoid the “speed trap” on Kasold Drive — has some ideas of how the money from speeding tickets should be spent.
“Putting it back into the streets,” she said. “There are plenty of other roads that need work.”