By David Fleet
.– Township residents will soon have the option to slow down motorists.
On April 10 the township board of trustees moved forward on criteria that would allow speed limits on some of its 46 miles of gravel roads to be decreased.
The change comes after Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law H.B. 4423 in January, which allows local officials to lower speeds to 45 mph on gravel roads in counties with a population of more than 1 million people, which includes Oakland County. Municipalities that choose to do so are responsible for paying for required signage. Communities can also request a speed study in areas where a speed lower than 45 mph is desired.
“The speed limit change will not apply to primary roads such as Groveland, Oak Hill, Wildwood or Barron,” said Bob DePalma, township supervisor. “Otherwise we would have some speed traps in the township.”
“The township would require the majority of property owners, 51 percent on the gravel road, to sign a petition for the speed change,” he said. “Those residences will be required to pay for new signs. One individual will collect the money and pay for the speed sign change.”
Currently speeds are set at 55 mph on all gravel roads in the township after 2006 legislation that raised limits on those roads. Prior to that, municipalities like the township had the capability to set speeds at 25 mph based on home density in an area.
If a resident or residents want lower than 45 mph speed limits, a speed study will be conducted by the Michigan State Police free of charge, but DePalma said that could take years.
“That study would be a very low priority for the state police,” he said. “Once the study is complete the state police will then make a recommendation for the change. The chances of a change in speed are slim.”
The law was changed in 2006 at the request of the state police, with speeds based on number of entry points, such as driveways within a half-mile, and with few communities meeting the criteria, most speeds were raised to 55 mph.
For each one mile stretch of road that the township chooses to reduce to a 45 mph speed, six signs will be required to be posted, three in each direction, and the signs and labor for the Road Commission for Oakland County installation will cost between $1,000-$1,400.
According to the state police, the primary basis for establishing speed limits is the 85th percentile speed. This is the speed at which 85 percent of the traffic flows. For example, if 85 of each 100 vehicles were recorded at 45 mph or under, then 45 mph is the 85th percentile speed.
Craig Bryson, public information officer for the Road Commission for Oakland County, said that also understandably raised concerns for many residents whose children ride bicycles on those roads or who walk their dogs; however, as expected by the state police and RCOC, little changed in the way of accidents after the speed limit was raised and most people were above the 25 mph speed limit anyway prior to 2006.
“RCOC studies show that the average speed on gravel roads is 37-38 mph, regardless of what the posted speed limit is,” said Bryson. “It’s true with 25 mph zones and it’s true with 55 mph zones. People drive what they think is safe regardless of conditions of weather and road, and they will drive the same speed.”