University Circle

Carthage city commissioners voted Monday to lower the speed limit on University Circle.

University Circle’s speed limit has been lowered to 20 mph after about 70 of the neighborhood’s residents signed a petition asking officials to address dangerous driving on the street.

Petition organizer Robert Bragg had been pushing for the city to install speed bumps on the road, but officials said they first wanted to see if lowering the speed limit would solve most of the problem.

“My thought would be that we drop it to 20, look at it for a month and come back and evaluate it and see if that resolved or helped the problem,” Commissioner Jerry Hanszen said. “Then just readdress it at that time.”

City commissioners voted unanimously at Monday’s meeting to lower the speed limit, as well as to look into what emergency actions could be taken to address concerns about cars driving too fast on the curvy street.

Bragg has been asking the city to address concerns about cars driving too fast for the street, which includes an S curve where trees and vegetation mean drivers can’t always see what they’re about to come up on. Bragg told commissioners Monday the neighborhood is full of kids, many of whom ride their bicycles in the street and are at risk of being run over.

“My son was mowing the grass, and he mowed the grass and he stepped out in the street to turn the motor around and almost got run over,” Bragg said.

The street’s old speed limit was 30 mph — the standard speed for city streets unless otherwise noted — which Bragg and city officials said much too high.

“I’ve been there for I think 10 years now,” Bragg said. “I’ve been complaining about it and complaining about it and complaining about it, hollering at people. It’s just getting worse, getting worse, getting worse.”

Speed bumps are the only thing that will solve the problem, Bragg said. He offered to pay for it himself.

“If they don’t have sense enough to slow down in the S curve in the neighborhood, well they’re not going to have sense enough to slow down because the speed limit’s lowered or because you put up a sign that says ‘kids at play,’” he said. “That’s only going to stop anybody that has any sense anyways. We’re trying to stop the ones that don’t have sense enough to slow down in the curve in the neighborhood.”

Mayor Lin Joffrion and other city officials agreed that something needed to be done to curb unsafe driving on the street, starting with the speed limit.

“If you’ve realized any hesitancy on our part for any speed bump, it’s the most invasive thing we can do, it’s the most expensive thing we can do, but sometimes they’re necessary,” he said. “Hearing what you’re saying, at a minimum we need to lower the speed limit.”

City officials had asked Police Chief Blake Smith to post extra patrols in the neighborhood at their June meeting, and since then Smith said they’ve issued zero stops, tickets or warnings. Smith told city officials he was in favor of lowering the speed limit to 20 mph.

“I would be for lowering the speed limit because 30 mph is high,” he said.

Joffrion said much of the unsafe driving Bragg has seen could just be because the speed limit was set too high. He also noted Bragg’s petition was not just asking for speed bumps; it included other mitigation efforts like lowering the speed limit.

“All those 72 people didn’t say we want speed bumps, they said they wanted to address the issue at hand, and respectfully that’s what we’re doing,” Joffrion said. “We’re just saying let us try this, let’s see if it works. That subdivision’s been there for nearly 40 years and this is the first time this has come up. I’m sure it’s been an issue before, but it’s the first time it’s come up. Just let us see if this cures the problem, and if it doesn’t, we can revisit it, and we will.”

Bragg said lowering the speed limit would not be enough.

“I promise you if somebody gets run over, hit, damaged in any kind of way, I’m going to hire a lawyer and sue,” he said.

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Carthage native Meredith Shamburger has worked for the Panola Watchman since 2018. Before that, she worked at sister papers in Longview and Marshall; the Dallas Morning News; and The Daily Voice, a hyperlocal news company in Westchester County, New York.