Source: Sherman Publications

Many questions after gravel road meeting

January 25, 2012

Dear Editor,

(In response to: ‘How fast is too fast on gravel roads? Public responds’, The Citizen, Jan. 10, page 3)

Susan Bromley (Citizen reporter) did an excellent job of reporting on the Jan. 10 meeting at Brandon Middle School on the setting of speed limits on gravel roads. I would like to add some analytical comments about the meeting and the issue. I am one who thinks both our current speed limits and the method of setting those limits are dangerous to those using the roads.

The meeting room was full to overflowing. I think it is safe to say that everyone who attended was concerned about the safety of people using the gravel roads in our townships and the clear majority felt that the current speed limit of 55 was dangerous to those users. A smaller but still clear majority felt the methodology for setting those speed limits was also dangerous and needed to be changed.

The meeting started with a lengthy presentation by the Michigan State Police explaining how they go about setting speed limits. It soon became apparent that, while probably excellent for broad, paved through highways with wide berms and separations for various types of traffic, their methodology was simply not adequate for determining a safe speed for a narrow, gravel, township road with no berm and no place other than the road for users not driving automobiles (those on foot, bicycle, horseback, waiting for a school bus, etc.). In fact, it became apparent the officer was simply clueless about that type of road, who uses it, why, and how. What also became apparent, although much was made about using supposedly “scientific” data to set speed limits, was that the MSP had NO DATA (scientific or unscientific) on local, township roads, had no plans to gather such data and weren’t going to patrol those roads, anyway!!! (Interesting fact: all of the officers with local agencies who spoke, whether as citizens or in official capacity representing their departments, and who would be patrolling those roads were in favor of local control in setting speed limits!!!)

The number one “take away” I had from the meeting was: Why, given the MSP’s total lack of involvement in local, township roads, are they given veto power over any decisions made by our local officials and law enforcement personnel concerning speed limits on those roads? Why is their role anything but advisory, at best? Both Rep. Jacobsen and Sen. Robertson seemed to be sincere and intelligent people who really did want to know what we thought. They did not say much themselves and seemed to be listening and taking a lot of notes, but their deference to the MSP both in manner and law on this issue did not make sense to me. Perhaps they will be having another meeting soon where they would talk and explain that to us.

I am in favor of having some sort of standards or guidelines for setting speed limits on our township roads. But, those standards need to be relevant to the conditions of the road and consider all the people that will, by necessity, be using the road. They also need to involve, not bypass, our local officials that will be enforcing those limits. I will be interested in seeing what Messrs. Jacobsen and Robertson come up with

Ken Mollenhour