The Hastings City Council voted to reduce the speed limit on U.S. Highway 281 north of Lochland Road to 55 mph during its regular meeting Monday at the City Building.

Currently, the speed limit in the area is 55 mph up to Lochland Road, but City Engineer Dave Wacker said some motorists will begin increasing speed at the sight of a new speed limit sign. Conversely, the current boundary doesn’t require motorists approaching Hastings to adhere to the 55 mph limit until reaching Lochland Road.

Wacker said that the process started about a year ago after an ophthalmologist in the area explained that some patients had concerns of driving at the intersection following outpatient procedures. The city requested a traffic study of the intersection to see if a traffic signal could be installed.

Traffic signals at highway intersections are governed by the Nebraska Department of Transportation. Signals can only be installed if deemed warranted by meeting one of nine possible criteria which include traffic crashes, fatal accidents and pedestrian traffic.

A traffic study was done and, while there have been crashes at the intersection, the volume didn’t warrant a signal.

“That concluded at end of August this year and made a finding that an intersection is not warranted at this time,” Wacker said.

But the city is able to adjust the speed limit along the highway that is within the city limits, and that was the remedy suggested by the state. The city limits extend 1,465 feet, about a quarter of a mile, north of the Lochland intersection.

Wacker said they are also looking at the possibility of adding another warning sign to warn drivers of the upcoming change in speed, such as the one located near 42nd Street.

Council members expressed interest in lowering the speed limit.

“I’m for lowering it, but I think enforcement needs to be beefed up on it,” Councilwoman Ginny Skutnik said.

Councilman Chuck Rosenberg said he lived in the Lochland area for more than 20 years and feels the speed reduction is justified.

“That 70 mph speed limit sign is too close to that intersection,” he said.

Mayor Corey Stutte said a group of citizens even signed a petition to have the city install a traffic signal. He said the city will use those signatures to show NDOT the level of public support for a signal to be added in the future.

“I think that would help with economic development out that direction,” he said.

The proposed change was approved 8-0, as was the motion to suspend the rules requiring a second public reading for the change. The change will go into effect in 15 days and be implemented as soon as new speed limit signs are posted.

In other business, the council:

Approved the application for a liquor license for Ninja House Inc., doing business as Ninja Steak Sushi House at 235 S. Burlington Ave.

Approved a zoning change from agricultural to single-family large-lot residential for Hollister 3rd Subdivision.

Approved bringing the Menard-Boyd Addition within the corporate limits of the City of Hastings.

Approved the final plat for the Pioneer Trail Flats Second Subdivision.

Approved moving the City Council meeting from Monday, Nov. 11, to Tuesday, Nov. 12 due to Veterans Day.

Approved an application from the Community Redevelopment Authority for CDBG Downtown Revitalization funding in the amount of $75,000.

Heard the second reading of an ordinance to modify the city’s extra-territorial zoning jurisdiction.

Repealed the current Chapter 3 of the official Hastings City Code and enacted a new Chapter 3 in its place to remove inconsistencies between city employees and Hastings Utilities employees.

Approved the Hastings Employee Handbook to cover all city employees, including Hastings Utilities workers.

Approved a City of Hastings Fleet Management Policy.

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