The speed limit on the Niagara Thruway on Grand Island has been changed to 65 mph, but the speed limit signs have not. So motorists must continue to travel 55 mph until the new signs arrive sometime next week, a state official said.
The state Thruway Authority board of trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to raise the speed limit by 10 mph. The move marks the second time in recent months that the Thruway Authority has made decisions impacting Western New York roads. It removed the Breckenridge and Ogden toll barriers in November.
Trustee Jeffrey D. Williams of Lewiston said the new speed limit was necessary to conform to the Niagara Falls portion of the highway, which is already 65 mph.
He proposed the increase to the chairman of the board in November, and the Thruway Authority embarked on various studies, including accident statistics, current operating conditions and geometry and setup of the highway.
"I believe it was a natural extension, and it made sense," Williams said. "It's already 65 in Niagara Falls."
He added that the studies supported the increase and found that motorists already were traveling above the 55 mph limit.
Patrick Newton, a Thruway Authority spokesman, said the new speed limit applies to the highway from milepost 15.6 to 20.2 northbound and from milepost 19.9 to 15.3 southbound -- about a five-mile stretch. It does not apply to the Grand Island Bridges.
Also, the speed limit does not go into effect until the new signs are put up, and that won't take place until next week, Newton said.
"[Motorists] should obey the posted speed limit," he said.
Grand Island Deputy Supervisor Richard W. Crawford noted the town doesn't have a say in the mat
ter, since it's a state road. He said he's somewhat comfortable with the increase because it's backed by a comprehensive study.
"I think they've determined the safety of it, and it'll be a better flow of traffic into Niagara Falls," said Crawford, who is also the Town Board's liaison to the Traffic Safety Advisory Board.
But he said there are some concerns since some motorists already speed off some of the exit ramps into the town and that could worsen with a 65 mph limit and merging onto the south Grand Island bridge from South Park and Grand Island Boulevard could take longer and be more dangerous with a higher speed limit.