Traffic Q&A: State Patrol will reassess eastbound SR 16 speed limit

Question: What’s the point of the 40 mph speed limit on eastbound state Route 16 between Fircrest and I-5?

I could understand that limit during the height of the construction projects, but it seems fairly pointless now.

The people who try to stick to 40 mph are a great danger and aggravation to the 99 percent of other drivers who keep to 60 or 65 mph. And you never see the Washington State Patrol out there enforcing the limit, so why have it set so low in the first place?— Ken, University Place

Answer: Actually, the 40 mph speed limit on eastbound Route 16 doesn’t start in Fircrest. It starts after you cross Union Avenue in Tacoma, but we get your point.

When traffic is light, 40 mph does seem too low in that section.

Claudia Bingham Baker, a WSDOT spokeswoman, noted that the speed limit has been 40 mph on that stretch of 16 for many years, long before the current Nalley Valley construction project began.

“We kept that 40 mph speed limit through construction because we had narrowed lanes and changing alignments,” she said.

Next month, when the new eastbound project is finished, traffic engineers will watch drivers and reassess whether 40 mph is still a reasonable speed, Bingham Baker said.

Watch drivers?

“I say we’ll watch drivers because part of our analysis in determining appropriate speed limits is seeing what speed people drive a facility,” she said. “People tend to drive at a speed at which they feel comfortable and safe, and that, along with geometrics, helps us determine appropriate speed limits.”

Here’s a hint about what might happen: When WSDOT opened the new westbound state Route 16 viaduct, it set the speed limit at 50 mph, which was 10 mph higher than the old viaduct’s speed limit of 40 mph.

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693