This is a look south down North Main Avenue. The speed limit is 20 mph. The short stretch crosses two railroad tracks. (Phot by Steve Pokin)

To read this story, please sign in with your email address and password.

You've read all your free stories this month. Subscribe now and unlock unlimited access to our stories, exclusive subscriber content, additional newsletters, invitations to special events, and more.


I have a Steve Pokin question. Why is the speed limit only 20 mph on Main Avenue between Chestnut Expressway and West College Street? That is a school-zone speed limit but there aren't any schools. No one drives 20 mph there. — David Brown of Springfield

At mid-day April 8, pre-eclipse, I went to drive this five-block section of roadway.

North Main between College and Chestnut Expressway is not quite as scenic as, say, Pickwick Avenue in Rountree at Christmas.

On North Main, you don't put on headphones, for example, and stop curbside to hear audio recordings about buildings such as “The Hotel of Terror.”

The Hotel of Terror is on North Main Avenue. (Photo by Steve Pokin)
This is the view looking south on North Main Avenue, taken from near the corner with Phelps Street. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

For those not familiar, the Rare Breed Youth Services and the City Utilities Transit Station are also on this 0.4-mile section of North Main.

It was a beautiful afternoon, so I parked my car in the lot at the post office on Chestnut and took a walk, snapping photos of various oddities you wouldn't necessarily see if driving by, even if only at 20 mph.

A tent is set up in a green space near North Main Avenue. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

First, there was a surprising amount of traffic. Perhaps people use this as a cut-through to the Park Central Square.

This fake head was one of two that could be seen through the windows of the building with the Melton Electric Co. sign on it.
A helmet and shield adorn the exterior of one of the old buildings facing North Main Avenue. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

On foot, I spotted a couple of fake heads through the windows on the facade of Melton Electric Co.; as well as a knight's helmet and shield on the wall of a different old brick building; and assorted boarded up windows and No Trespassing signs, including the warning signs along the side of the post office.

It occurred to me as I strolled this forlorn stretch that I have an unusual career. Instead of selling insurance or driving over-the-road, here I am, taking a walk on a brilliant day because someone had assumed that I, of all people, would know why the speed limit here is only 20 mph and not, for example, 25 mph.

The truth is, I often don't have a clue as to what the answer might be. But I do know how to knock on doors.

Two old metal lamp holders are on the front of one building on North Main Avenue. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

I posed the question to Gina Poindexter, who happened to be working at Rare Breed, a central hub providing quick access to basic needs and services for homeless and at-risk youth ages 13 to 24.

This is the view looking west from the Rare Breed Youth Services building, toward the Grant Avenue bridge. A number of unsheltered people live in the area. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

Her best theory was that the speed limit needs to be low because so many people without shelter congregate in this area, including the field that is right behind Rare Breed. It stretches out to the Grant Avenue bridge.

Two railroad tracks cross North Main at two different locations in this brief stretch. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

Back at the office, I texted Cora Scott, spokeswoman for the city of Springfield, asking if there's a chance a city traffic engineer might know, first, if the speed limit on North Main is unusually low?

And, if so, why?

Kristen Milam, who works with Scott, sent me the city traffic code, which states that the speed limit in the Central Business District, which includes the section of North Main that I'm writing about, is 20 mph, except along Campbell, Jefferson and Kimbrough avenues, and St. Louis Street.

There once was a sign. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

Other streets throughout the city have a limit of 25 mph, but those limits can be increased by the city traffic engineer, if warranted.

That sounds like an answer to me, David. It's 20 and not 25 because it's in the Central Business District.

Want to test your knowledge on other questions about driving …

A: When is a 20 mph school speed zone in effect?

B: What is the speed limit in a parking lot in the city?

C: Can you drive over a fire hose that has been set across a street?

This photo is taken from under the overhang at Hotel of Terror, looking north. (Photo by Steve Pokin)


A: The speed limit in school zones is in effect 50 minutes prior to the start of classes and extends 30 minutes following the ending of classes.

B: The speed limit in a public or private parking lot is 15 mph.

C: It is illegal to drive over a fire hose that has been set across a street.

This is Answer Man column No. 70.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Hauxeda. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin