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Bellevue explores implementing a 20 mph speed limit

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(The Center Square) – The City of Bellevue is working to implement a citywide speed limit reduction on local streets from 25 mph to 20 mph.

The proposed speed limit reduction is the city’s response to speeding on local streets being listed as the top concern of residents regarding traffic safety.

Surrey Downs, East Bellevue Greenway, and a portion of Eastgate are three neighborhoods that have already seen speed limits reduced to 20 mph from 2020 through 2022. According to an agenda memo, each of the projects reduced speeding of 30 mph or more, which is considered high-end speeding.

The portion of Eastgate is the largest 20 mph zone in the city to date and it experienced a 19% reduction in speeding.

During Monday’s Bellevue City Council meeting, city officials pointed out that Portland, Ore. saw a 33.6% reduction in high-end speeding after implementing a citywide 20 mph speed limit.

Across Lake Washington in Seattle, the Seattle Municipal Code was adjusted to reduce citywide default speed limits for non-arterial streets from 25 mph to 20 mph in 2016. Despite this, the 2023 Serious and Fatal Collision report data reported more than 200 traffic injuries in Seattle.

If the Bellevue City Council approves the speed limit reduction on local streets, the project would be funded through the safety allocation of the Neighborhood Safety and Connectivity portion of the levy approved by voters in 2016.

The levy rate assesses 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, meaning a median valued home in Bellevue of $1.1 million would pay $165 annually towards the levy.

According to Bellevue Senior Planner John Murphy, the project is estimated to cost approximately $500,000 to implement.

The Bellevue City Council signaled majority support for the project. Bellevue City Councilmember John Stokes said that with Bellevue increasing in size, the need to protect pedestrians increases as well.

“I think it would be great to have that reduction, because there are a lot more people getting on the streets now and a lot more people walking, so I think it’s going to be a really good thing to do,” Stokes said at the city council meeting.

Murphy noted that 10 Bellevue streets were identified that would remain at a speed limit of 25 mph. These roads see less traffic, meaning a reduction in the speed limit is unnecessary.

Bellevue’s Neighborhood Traffic Safety Program is also continuing to work on physical traffic calming projects including speed humps and traffic circles to further reduce speeds.

The Bellevue City Council approved officials beginning outreach on the citywide local street speed limit reduction project as part of a plan to consider later this year a draft ordinance to lower local street speed limits.

Implementation would be anticipated to be completed in August 2025.