Accept the provisions of General Laws Chapter 90, Section 18B - to establish speed limits of 20 miles per hour for safety zones

Petitioner: Transportation Board

Annual Town Meeting, May 2017

Currently Chapter 90, Section 17 establishes the statutory speed limit of 20 mph on roadways within a school district only. Furthermore the Massachusetts amended Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices restricts the 20 mph school zone speed limit to K through 8 schools and does not include High Schools or schools without a crosswalk leading to their property. In order for the Town of Brookline to establish a 20mph speed limit in any other area it must comply with Chapter 90, Section 18 which requires town staff to conduct a multi-step speed study in accordance with the "MassDOT Procedures for Speed Zoning on State and Municipal Roadways" 2012 manual to determine to appropriate and allowable speed limit, receive a positive vote from the Transportation Board for a petition seeking approval from MassDOT to post the speed limit, and then submit the request to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for permission to post.

Municipalities in other states have had success in increasing safety by creating zones where the speed limit is reduced to 20 mph in a defined area with high pedestrian demand. Examples include New York City's Neighborhood Slow Zone Program which is a community-based program that reduces the speed limit from 25 mph to 20 mph and adds safety measures within a select area in order to change driver behavior and enhance quality of life by reducing cut-through traffic and traffic noise in residential neighborhoods. Similarly the City of Chicago instituted the Children's Safety Zone Program which seeks to protect children and other pedestrians by creating 20 mph safety zones, 1/8th of a mile boundary, around any Chicago park or school.

While the adoption of Warrant Article 19 will allow the Transportation Board and Town staff to increase the safety of all roadway users with the ability to post a 25 mph speed limit on designated streets or a statutory 25 mph speed limit townwide, there are certain areas within the Town where a further reduction in speed to 20 mph is more appropriate. These may include areas around Brookline High School, the Brookline Senior Center, the Brookline Teen Center, areas around private schools which do not meet the requirements for a school zone, around large senior housing complexes, and areas of high pedestrian activity including neighborhood parks and playgrounds.

On August 9, 2016, the Governor signed House No. 4565, inserting into Chapter 90 of the Massachusetts General Laws the above-quoted local option law as a new Section 18B. While the statutory speed limit would remain 30 mph, the new provision provides the ability to local authorities to establish designated safety zones and post a speed limit of 20 mph on specified roadways within that zone without having to comply with the other provisions of Chapter 90, Section 18.

The adoption of this local option law by Town Meeting would authorize this step, but not require it. By adopting this local option the Transportation Board, following at least one public meeting at which testimony from the public would be taken, could consider resident or other requests to create a designated safety zone and install a speed limit sign of 20 mph on roadways within this zone as part of their authority to "adopt, alter or repeal rules and regulations, not inconsistent with general law as modified by this act, relative to pedestrian movement, vehicular and bicycle traffic in the streets and in the town-controlled public off-street parking areas in the town, and to the movement, stopping, standing or parking of vehicles and bicycles on, and their exclusion from, all or any streets, ways, highways, roads, parkways and public off-street parking areas under the control of the town" as part of their enabling legislation.

Official Town Meeting Vote Select Board Advisory Board

Favorable Action

Favorable Action

Favorable Action




Final Result:

Favorable Action

Community Organization Recommendations
PAX Green Caucus
Official Text of the Article

VOTED: To accept the provisions of General Laws Chapter 90, Section 18B which states:

18B "(a) Notwithstanding section 18 or any other general or special law to the contrary, the city council, the transportation commissioner of the city of Boston, the board of selectmen, park commissioners, a traffic commission or traffic director of a city or town that accepts this section in the manner provided in section 4 of chapter 4 may, in the interests of public safety and without further authority, establish designated safety zones on, at or near any way in the city or town which is not a state highway, and with the approval of the department if the same is a state highway. Such safety zones shall be posted as having a speed limit of 20 miles per hour."…