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Updated: Wednesday, 15 Jun 2011, 8:42 PM EDT
Published : Wednesday, 15 Jun 2011, 5:03 PM EDT
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - Wednesday marks one year the speed limit along Shore Drive in Virginia Beach was lowered from 45 to 35 mph. The controversial move was done in the name of safety.
But since the change, residents say they've only noticed more police handing out more tickets.
"I mean people feel like they're being set up," Tiffany Skowronski told WAVY.com. "I've noticed more and more people being pulled over. I can't pull out of our neighborhood without seeing somebody pulled over on a daily basis."
Skowronski, a mother of two, runs a daycare in a neighborhood just off the busy roadway. She says the design makes it a speed trap.
"The road was obviously designed to be a much faster road. It's a divided four lane highway, essentially," Skowronski said.
While she appreciates the new speed limit, she doesn't think drivers are adhering to it, even with a year of tougher enforcement.
"I have seen very little change since the speed limit was decreased," Skowronski added. "Nobody drives 35".
The increase in the number of speeding tickets issued may surprise you. According to statistics WAVY.com obtained from Virginia Beach police, officers wrote 548 tickets between July 2010 and May of this year.
That's compared with just 70 written the year before the speed limit change. The difference is almost 700 percent. That it turn translates into tens of thousands of dollars.
"Wow! I expect some new bike paths then," Skowronski said. "That's a lot of money."
"Hopefully they'll make enough income to lower the real estate taxes, that would be my hope," Rich Smith, owner of Uncle Rich's Cafe, told us jokingly.
Uncle Rich's Cafe sits on the east end of the Lesner Bridge. Smith has lived and worked along Shore Drive for almost 30 years. He says even after a year it's tough to remember 35 mph is the law.
"Very often you find yourself deep in thought and you're moving and you're having business to take care of and then you look at your speedometer and you realize you've been doing 45 for the last 20 years and all of sudden it's 10 miles per hour less," he said.
"I think it's engrained in people's minds that it's still 45 miles per hour and that's just habit," Skowronski added.
Ask Skrowronski and she'll tell you the solution to getting people to slow down is simpler than writing hundreds of tickets.
"I think that if they set up a radar detector with the speed limit listed...," she continued. "This is what you should be doing, this is what you are doing -- people will become more aware."
Also on the east end of the Lesner Bridge, is H2O Bar & Grill. Pam Barwick is the new owner.
"We love having the people that just walk," she told us. "They're not driving, they're not behind the wheel of a car."
Part of the motivating factor in Barwick buying that location, was the city's decision to lower the speed limit.
"It needed to happen, even at 35 it's a little precarious to get from that side of the street to this side of the street," Barwick said.
But while operating an establishment that sells alcohol, Barwick says her support of the slower speed has nothing to do with those who may have had a little too much to drink.
"I think it goes beyond that, because you've got people crossing the street with small children and a two-year-old can slip out of your hand easily," she said.
Since the change there has been a reduction in the number of crashes. Statistics provided from Virginia Beach police show that from July 2010 to this past May, there were 10 fewer crashes. None of them deadly.
Still city engineers are moving forward with plans to redesign the roadway.
"It'll be much safer for everybody, it'll be safer for the automobiles, it will be safer for the pedestrians and it will be safer for the bicyclists," Acting Director of Public Works Phil Davenport told WAVY.com.
Phase 3 safety improvements along the east side of the Lesner bridge is expected to start in July 2013 -- it will include more sidewalks, crosswalks and bike paths.
"There will be a huge difference," Davenport continued. "One of the differences people will see, they'll feel safer as they move down Shore Drive and as they get to the bridge."
Around the same time Phase 3 begins, the $90 million Lesner Bridge Replacement Project will get underway, most of which is state funded.
The new and improved span will include four wide lanes, and a bike path separated from traffic.
In all, construction should last about two years.
Davenport said, "Traffic will not be detoured. It will always be two lanes of traffic throughout construction."
The plans aren't finalized, however. That's because officials want you to weigh in.
"They will be very much dictated by the public and they will have their input into the process," Davenport added. "We want their input and we will certainly use it."
Those we talked to were on-board with the proposed safety changes.
"I think pedestrian friendly is very important," Smith added.
Skowronski told us, "I'm thrilled to hear that, that's
going to make it wonderful, it's going to make it a lot easier to get on that side of the bridge and it would probably do a bang-up business for all the businesses over the [other side of the Lesner Bridge]."
Businesses like Barwick's H2O. "I think it's a great idea," She told us. "It's scary to watch, to go over that bridge and see tourists wobbling on that bicycle going across that bridge."
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