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Speed limits in thickly settled or business districts

Cities and towns have the option to opt-in to MGL c. 90 § 17C, reducing the statutory speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph in thickly settled or business districts.

Table of Contents

Overview

MGL c. 90 § 17C defines a thickly settled or business district as "the territory contiguous to any way which is built up with structures devoted to business, or the territory contiguous to any way where dwelling houses are situated at such distances as will average less than two hundred feet between them for a distance of a quarter of a mile or over."

In 2016, legislation was passed (Sections 193 and 194 of Chapter 218 of the Acts of 2016) to create two new sections to MGL c.90§17C.

  • Section 193 allows a municipality to opt-in to Section 17C of Chapter 90 of the MGL, thereby reducing the statutory speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph on any or all city- or town-owned roadways within a thickly settled or business district. The legislation also requires cities and towns to notify MassDOT of these changes.
  • Section 194 creates Section 18B of Chapter 90 of the MGL, allowing municipalities to establish regulatory 20 mph safety zones. Since this creates a regulatory speed limit, the MUTCD requires an engineering study prior to the establishment of the safety zone, and it should conform to the guidance found in the MassDOT Procedures for Speed Zoning.

If a municipality opts-in, it will not supersede any existing posted speed limit.  The legislation only affects streets that are currently governed by a statutory speed limit.  If an existing special speed regulation is in place, it will continue to govern.

MassDOT recommends that if a municipality opts-in to MGL c. 90 § 17C, that it does so on a city- or town-wide basis to avoid potential confusion for drivers. However, cities and towns do have the option to opt-in on a street-by-street basis. Once a municipality has opted-in to MGL c. 90 § 17C, it is required to notify MassDOT.

Additional Resources

Municipalities that have notified MassDOT of opt-in

Municipality Opt-In Date Area(s) Covered
Acton 6/24/2021 Townwide
Amesbury 5/12/2021 Citywide
Arlington 5/1/2017 Townwide
Bedford 4/20/2018 Townwide
Belmont 10/11/2017 Townwide
Beverly 3/17/2017 Citywide
Billerica 8/23/2017 Alpine Street from Brick Kiln Road to Boston Road
Billerica 9/6/2017 Old Elm Street from Franklin Street to Lowell Street
Faulkner Street (entirety)
Letchworth Avenue (entirety)
Thickly settle district, bordered by the following streets: Cambridge Street (Route 3A), Wilmington Road (Route 62), Bucknell Road, and Cook Street. View complete list of roads and map of area.
Boston 1/9/2017 Citywide
Boxborough 5/16/2019 Townwide
Braintree 10/7/2017 Townwide
Brookline 4/18/2018 Townwide
Cambridge 11/7/2016 Citywide
Chelsea 1/4/2017 Citywide
Chicopee 10/10/2017 Citywide
Concord 1/2/2019 Townwide
Danvers 3/8/2018 Damon Street (entirety)
Chase Street (entirety)
Berry Street (entirety)
Alden Street (entirety)
Park Street from High Street to Lane Parkway
Hunt Street (entirety)
Porter Street (entirety)
Webb Street (entirety)
Bayview Avenue (entirety)
Riverside Avenue (entirety)
Dedham 2/16/2017 Townwide
Duxbury 2/10/2020 Washington Street (entirety)
Wadsworth Road (entirety)
Duxbury 12/31/2020 Surplus Street
Franklin Street (Route 53 to Valley Street)
Valley Street (Rt 53 to Pembroke town line)
Gurnet Road
Forest Street
Hunt Farm
Marshall Street
Standish Street
Crescent Street
Powder Point Avenue
King Caesar Road
Old North Street
East Bridgewater, 7/6/2020 Townwide
Framingham 3/21/2019 Townwide
Georgetown 5/16/2019 Townwide
Greenfield 5/15/2019 Citywide
Halifax 10/12/2017 Circuit Street (entirety)
Laurel Street (entirety)
Hanover 2/7/2019 Townwide
Holliston 5/7/2020 Townwide
Holyoke 10/10/2018 Citywide
Ipswich 6/12/2018 Townwide
Leominster 4/17/2017 Beth Avenue from Willard Street to Central Street
Lexington 5/12/2017 Townwide
Ludlow 10/5/2020 Townwide
Lunenberg 1/17/2018 Townwide
Lynn 5/22/2017 Citywide
Malden 4/23/2018 Citywide
Mattapoisett 9/10/2019 Townwide
Medford 5/30/2017 Citywide
Melrose 6/21/2017 Citywide
Milton 4/5/2018 Townwide
Nantucket 6/21/2017 Townwide
Newton 3/13/2017 Citywide
Norwell 2/19/2020 Townwide
Pittsfield 9/5/2017 Citywide
Plainfield 8/13/2019 Townwide
Randolph 3/27/2017 Townwide
Revere 6/1/2017 Citywide
Rowley 8/2/2021 Townwide
Salem 3/22/2017 Citywide
Scituate 4/05/2017 Townwide
Somerville 10/25/2016 Citywide
Springfield 10/15/2017 Citywide
Stoneham 11/9/2017 Townwide
Sudbury 10/15/2018 Townwide
Swampscott 11/2/2017 Townwide
Tisbury 9/21/2021 Daggett Avenue (entirety)
Franklin Street (Leland Avenue to Spring Street)
Skiff Avenue (entirety)
Weston 9/10/2018 Townwide
Winchester 9/23/19 Townwide
Winthrop 1/19/2021 Townwide

 

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