See more of the story

Leaders in Minneapolis and St. Paul agree: Drivers on city streets need to slow down. So with new authority from the Legislature, they're collaborating to lower speed limits from the current 30 mph.

They're not saying yet how low, but officials from both cities will announce the new limits and unveil signs at an event at Minneapolis' Prospect Park neighborhood next Thursday.

"I'm really excited for the announcement," Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender said Wednesday. "It's really important to work together with our neighbor for consistency for drivers across our two cities."

The Twin Cities are following the lead of other metropolitan areas that have recently lowered their speed limits in an effort to reduce severe crashes and make streets safer. Last year, the Minnesota Legislature gave local jurisdictions the power to set their own speed limits on city-owned streets. Minneapolis officials were considering lowering limits as one major component of their Vision Zero initiative to end deaths and serious injuries on roads by 2027.

While the lower speed limits are popular with city leaders, another element of the plan — stepped-up enforcement — is more controversial.

On Wednesday, a City Council committee voted against applying for a $1.3 million federal grant that would have been used to hire 10 officers to focus on traffic enforcement.

Some committee members said they first wanted to see a police staffing study expected to come out later this year.

In St. Paul, Mayor Melvin Carter also said he wanted to take advantage of the new state law on speed limits.

The speed limit on most city streets in Minneapolis and St. Paul is 30 mph. The public works departments for both cities collaborated to determine the changes.

"Both cities agree that 'Slower is Safer.' Working together to create consistent speed limits on city-owned streets just makes sense," said Lisa Hiebert, spokeswoman for the St. Paul Public Works Department, in a statement. "It's easier for our residents who live in either city, and for all visitors who travel between or through Minneapolis and St. Paul, to have a consistent approach and messaging around speed limits."

Crews will begin to change the signs on most city streets this spring, according to Minneapolis' Vision Zero website. They anticipate it will take several months to make the switch.

Speed limits on county and state roads, which are set by the state, will not change.

Ashwat Narayanan, executive director of Our Streets Minneapolis, a nonprofit advocating for cyclists and pedestrians in the city, said lowering speed limits is a step toward improving road conditions for all modes of transportation.

"It's really commendable because we are, at the end of the day, a region," he said. "It's great to see that both these cities are taking traffic safety on their streets seriously."

Speeding is a factor in 31% of traffic deaths across the country, according to a 2017 study by the National Transportation Safety Board.

A pedestrian has a 73% chance of death or severe injury if hit by a driver going 40 mph, compared with a 13% chance if the driver is going 20 mph, according to 2013 data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety used by both cities.

Other major cities have lowered their limits in recent years, including New York City, Boston and Seattle. The latter two have seen a significant reduction in car crashes as a result, according to studies.

Bender said lowering speed limits would also help guide future street renovations, such as lane widths and the timing of stop lights.

"It's not as simple as just changing the speed limit for driver behavior," she said. "It's about holistically impacting how our streets are designed and used."

Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753