Spring is in the air and so is the rumble of ATVs. At last week’s regular meeting, the Moab City Council considered how to deal with numerous complaints from residents about the noise from ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) and UTVs (utility task vehicles). In response to the noise concerns, the council has asked city staff to lower speed limits on several streets in town.
“Since the [state] Legislature decided to let ATVs and UTVs be on public roads, there have been some people concerned about the noise level. That’s how it all started,” said council member Rani Derasary.
To find out how much noise ATVs are actually creating, Moab City Community Services Director Amy Weiser and Interim Police Chief Steve Ross conducted an informal sound test at Old City Park using a decibel meter.
A borrowed street-legal UTV drove by the park on a slight uphill incline while Weiser and Ross measured the noise from 12 feet away. They found little difference between noise levels at 15 and 20 miles per hour, but at 25 mph the vehicle was much louder, according to information provided to the council.
Based on those findings, city council members asked staff to decrease speed limits on certain streets in town.
“Council asked that we drop some of the street speed limits to 20 miles an hour to see if that makes any difference,” Weiser said. “It will be kind of a trial and we’ll see how that goes.”
When Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison expressed concern about a lack of enforcement of speed limits and vehicle sound limits in town, Weiser said the police department has been cracking down on vehicles that are not street legal and that are speeding, but that enforcing the 65 decibel noise limit specified in city code may be impractical.
“We’ve got a very detailed ordinance that has procedures for measuring sound, but ... I’m sure that as a practical matter it’s hard for [officers] to be standing with a noise meter and be able to detect somebody who's speeding,” said Moab City Attorney Chris McAnany.
Ross said that since faster vehicles are louder, “essentially by enforcing speed, you’re enforcing both.”
Initially, the city considered speed limits only for ATVs, an action some other towns in Utah have taken. However, singling out ATVs could open the city to lawsuits, Weiser said at the council meeting. It could also be an inconvenience to drivers stuck behind slow-moving vehicles.
Council members also discussed other measures to control speed in town, including educational signage and traffic-calming street design, like the narrow curbs and on-street parking on East Center Street.
Ross said city staff is still considering which streets will have lower speed limits.
“We are primarily looking at residential streets that are heavily traveled and used as main arteries,” he said. “This is important, as we want everyone that is operating a street legal vehicle to be able to use our city streets and to do it with the respect of our citizens and our business owners.”