Neighbors who reside on Ford Lane in Orange County flocked to a public hearing Monday, Oct. 21, to express their concerns about and opposition to changing the speed limit on their street from 10 mph to 20 mph. The proposed change was on the agenda and up for vote at the Oct. 21 Orange County Commissioners Court meeting following the hearing, and seven Ford Lane residents — with several other neighbors also in attendance — told commissioners at the public hearing that they absolutely do not want the speed limit raised on the short, dead-end road.
Paula Ibarra lives on Ford Lane and spearheaded the fight against raising the road’s speed limit. She started a petition signed by almost all residents of the neighborhood, collected letters detailing their reasons for opposing the change and encouraged her neighbors to show up at the public hearing so their voices could be heard. Ibarra said she believes raising the speed limit would endanger the children in the neighborhood, at least one of whom suffers from Asperger’s, a form of autism, and the adults, one of whom is disabled and almost completely blind. She said she has three children, one of whom suffers from ADHD, and although she does not allow her children to “play in the street,” they do often ride their bicycles to neighbors’ houses, including their grandmother’s house across the street. Her youngest son is on training wheels and is learning how to ride with her assistance on the short, dead-end road.
“No one had a problem with the speed limit being 10 mph when there was a deaf child who lived in the neighborhood,” Ibarra said. “Our children with disabilities deserve the same fairness and consideration.”
Ibarra said it is often dark when the neighborhood children walk to the school bus, and raising the speed limit could make it dangerous. In addition, she pointed out the road is so short, a person would really have to “punch the gas” to get up to a speed of 20 mph before reaching the end of it.
Orange County Sheriff Keith Merritt spoke, opposing the speed limit increase. “If any road in Orange County should be 10 mph, it’s Ford Lane,” he said.
At Monday’s meeting, Judge Carl Thibodeaux commended the neighbors for showing up and speaking out at the public hearing and recommended “no action” be taken on the agenda item suggesting raising the speed limit, thereby allowing the limit to remain at 10 mph at this time.
“We had some good participation in the public hearing today,” Thibodeaux said. “In fact, very good participation. A lot of time, no one shows up. We had some concerned citizens that did show up on this particular issue, even in the inclement weather. I commend them for that, and I thank them for coming. … No action will be taken, and we will leave the speed limit at 10 mph for now.”
According to District Attorney Doug Manning, he is researching the laws that dictate speed limits. He said the Texas Transportation Code mandates the minimum speed limit for residential neighborhoods is 20 mph unless there are special circumstances — like persons with disabilities living in the neighborhood, for example. He said he is still looking into it but believes an exception can be made for Ford Lane.
Ibarra said she is happy with the outcome Monday, and hopes the issue does not resurface. She encourages the community to be aware of what is going on in their local government because the changes made in those city council and county commissioners meetings could have a big effect on them, and they may not know it until the changes are already in place.
“Someone asked for the change, but the rest of the neighborhood did not want it,” she said. “If we had not seen media reports or the posted agenda, we would not have known to go to the public hearing. Then, they would have probably voted to raise the speed limit because no one showed up to oppose it. You have to speak up to be heard.”
Sharon Brooks can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 241, or sharon [at] theexaminer [dot] com.