Washington State

House of Representatives

Office of Program Research



Transportation Committee

HB 1045

This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.

Brief Description: Authorizing certain local authorities to establish maximum speed limits on certain nonarterial highways.

Sponsors: Representatives Ryu, Angel, Moscoso, Clibborn, Upthegrove, Fitzgibbon, Liias, Pedersen, Stanford, Farrell, Morrell, Pollet, Bergquist and Fey.

Brief Summary of Bill

  • Waives the requirement of an engineering and traffic investigation when a city or town establishes a lower speed limit within a residential or business district.

Hearing Date: 1/22/13

Staff: Andrew Russell (786-7143).


State law establishes speed limits on all roads in the state. These limits depend upon the type of road being limited—city streets, county roads, or state highways. On city streets, the limit is set at 25 miles per hour. On county roads, the limit is set at 50 miles per hour. Finally, on state highways, the limit is set at 60 miles per hour.

Cities or towns may either increase or decrease these limits on their own accord; however, a city or town must undertake an engineering and traffic investigation before making such a change. Generally, this investigation will consider factors such as the speed of the 85th percentile of drivers on the road, road characteristics, parking practices, pedestrian activity, roadside development and environment, a history of crashes, and other factors.

An altered speed limit is effective when the appropriate signs are erected; however, any alteration on a state highway must be approved by the Secretary of the Department of Transportation before going into effect.

Summary of Bill:

A city or town is not required to conduct a engineering and traffic investigation if the city or town establishes a maximum speed limit of 20 miles per hour on a nonarterial highway within a residence or business district. This waiver applies, however, only if the city or town has developed procedures for establishing such lower speed limits. The requirement is also waived if the city or town seeks to cancel a lower speed limit that had been established through the previously described process. In that case, the cancelation must occur within one year of the initial establishment of the 20-mile-per-hour limit. Finally, cities and towns must consult the manual on uniform traffic control devices when establishing speed limits pursuant to the procedures described above.

Appropriation: None.

Fiscal Note: Available.

Effective Date: The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill is passed.