Frustration with the state's 30 mph default speed limit (which applies "unless otherwise posted") predates my public service. For many years, municipal pleas to allow local decisions to lower speed limits on local roads fell on deaf ears. When I was elected to the legislature in 2006, I vowed to end this gridlock.
More than ten years, three Highway Administrators, and the creation of the consolidated transportation agency MassDOT later - victory! I filed the latest iteration of a local-control speed limits bill as an amendment to our Municipal Modernization bill. It was filed in the Senate side, kept by the conference committee and received a final favorable vote on July 31, 2016.
What went on in the intervening ten years? I filed a variety of bills, based on meetings with state highway officials and municipal stakeholders, some of which made legislative headway, only to meet practical or political impediments. I learned a tremendous amount, not just about the interplay of federal and state speed limit law, but about how various urban, suburban, and rural communities in Massachusetts view their roads, and their road users.
What, specifically, will the new law allow? It will allow municipalities to reduce the default speed limit on local roads to 25 mph, in "any thickly settled of business district," (Section 193,...) also, municipalities may designate "safety zones," on local roads, with speed limits of 20 mph (Section 194,...). So, prepare to organize locally, to lower the speed limit in a suitable location near you.