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Township drives toward speed limit input on gravel roads



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July 23, 2014 - Atlas Twp.-Speed limits on gravel township roads may get a second look.

On Monday night the board of trustees voted to move forward with potential reductions in speed limits on several township roads.

"It's going to be a process," said Shirley Kautman-Jones, township supervisor. "The process requires traffic counts, speed studies and a study of the characteristics will be considered by the Genesee County Road Commission."

The board OK'd Kautman-Jones to meet with the county officials regarding speed limits in the township—several specific roads were suggested for the studies.

The speed battle on rural county roads is not new.

A revised state law, enacted by the state legislature in March 2006, increased the speed limit on roads previously posted at 25 mph to 55 mph—even in residential areas. The township has about 100 miles of dirt roads.

In 2011 the township board voted 4-1 to support a resolution for legislation to allow local governments to set or reinstate speed limits on gravel roads. Supervisor Shirley Kautman-Jones, Treasurer Ann Marie Slagle (Moore), Clerk Tere Onica and Trustee Paul Amman voted for the resolution. Trustee Barry June voted no.

June did not support the resolution since it gave a carte blanche to speed limits for municipalities and emphasized the need for a pattern. Following the vote, June added that speeds will be all over the place in the township. Nothing will stop municipalities from setting speed traps.

"We've gone through this reduction in speed several times," said Tere Onica, township clerk. "Traveling in excess of 55 mph on the gravel roads I'm surprised there has not been an accident along our roads. It's difficult to walk along the roads. We have spent a lot of money on our gravel roads in the township—$500,000 this year alone. I believe drivers cut through the township because our roads are in such great shape."

Lawmakers are aware of the speed issue statewide.

House Bill 4037, co-authored by Rep. Brad Jacobsen (R-Oxford), Rep. Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake) and Hugh Crawford (R-Novi), encourages reduction of speed limits on dirt roads. The bill will make it possible for local governmental bodies to set or reinstate speed limits on gravel roads according to road conditions, topography, and traffic patterns which are known best by individuals residing in the locality instead of mandatory calculations.

The bill did not go anywhere, reported Rep. Jacobsen in an interview on Wednesday.

"The Michigan State Police seem to not have any reason to change," he said. "The state police still hold that people are going to drive according to conditions. However, that hard line attitude may be easing a bit. Today the MSP are almost in agreement in counties with population of 1 million or more, which only includes Wayne, Oakland and Macomb. Local governments can reduce speeds from 55 to 45 mph. It would not impact Genenee (County). The Genesee, Oakland and Macomb county areas seem to have the most concern regarding the speed on gravel roads. When I talk with other lawmakers they don't have the complaints we do in northern Oakland County or Genesee for part of the state. Maybe it's because we are a horse community, more into bikes or more outdoor activities. There's an ongoing issue."

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