Traffic officer says data supports 45 mph speed

Staff Writer

Traffic officer says data
supports 45 mph speed
Staff Writer

HOWELL — A two-week concentration of police enforcement on Arnold Boulevard continues to support the present speed limit of 45 mph.

Howell traffic safety officer Patrolman Matthew Bishop told the Tri-Town News that since Nov. 19, an officer has been stationed on Arnold Boulevard between 6-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. He said that detail was a dedicated patrol, meaning the assigned officer would only have left his position in order to answer an emergency call.

As of press time Tuesday, Bishop said an average speed of 43 mph was observed by the assigned officers who have issued three speeding tickets to motorists during the past two weeks. Back in the spring, Bishop said, the same beefed up enforce­ment was done on Arnold Boulevard for a total of 19 hours and at that time only three speeding tickets were issued.

The extra police presence both times came in response to a group of Arnold Boulevard residents who have been en­gaged in an ongoing attempt to get the Township Council to lower the speed limit to 25 mph.

Bishop said several traffic studies al­ready conducted by the Howell Police Department do not support lowering the speed limit any further.

The first traffic study was done in October 1997 when the speed limit on Arnold Boulevard was 50 mph. That is the speed for which the road was de­signed, Bishop said.

Following several more resident com­plaints, studies were again done in January 2000 and May 2001. Bishop said the state Department of Transportation lowered the speed limit from 50 mph to 45 mph in September 2001.

In April another speed study was done and still another was ordered by the council more recently and is being con­ducted along with the special police pres­ence that has been concentrated on Arnold Boulevard since Nov. 19.

According to Bishop’s data compiled from the four previous traffic studies done by the department, the median speed of 85 percent of the motorists trav­eling on Arnold Boulevard is between 50 and 53 mph. The officer explained that the 85th percentile is the formula used for determining an appropriate road speed.

Bishop noted that a separate traffic study done by township planner Michael Vena also supported maintaining the speed limit at 45 mph.

He noted that the April study was conducted during a time when there were a lot of construction vehicles traveling back and forth on Arnold Boulevard.

Bishop said a traffic counter showed that on one particular day there were 2,337 cars on Arnold Boulevard and only 293 of those had exceeded the speed limit by between 5 and 15 mph. In other words, he said, 88 percent of the vehicles were traveling at 49 mph or less, again sup­porting the accepted formula for deter­mining the road’s correct speed.

In response to the ongoing complaints of residents who maintain that the pre­sent 45 mph speed limit makes the road unsafe for children who are boarding and exiting school buses, Vena proposed traf­fic safety devices which included speed humps and line drawings that create an optical illusion that would theoretically cause drivers to slow their speed. The cost for these safety devices has been es­timated by Vena to be between $60,000 and $120,000.

However, Bishop said those two pro­posed safety measures are inappropriate for Arnold Boulevard. He said the road design for Arnold Boulevard would not support the placement of speed humps. He noted that the speed humps are not allowed to be placed on a road where the speed limit is more than 30 mph.

As for lane shifting illusions, Bishop said they are an expensive measure not supported by the accident history along Arnold Boulevard. According to Bishop, there have been three accidents on Arnold Boulevard in the past five years. He said two of those accidents were caused by cars being rear-ended at stop signs at both ends of the road and the third accident was caused by a deer.

"A change in the geometry of the road will likely increase the number of crashes on Arnold Boulevard. It will create prob­lems, not solve them," he said.

Bishop said a perfect example of an "unreasonably lowered speed limit" is Newtons Corner Road, where the speed limit varies between 25 mph and 45 mph on a road which, again, he said, was de­signed for 50 mph traffic. Bishop said he estimates that about 1,300 vehicles a day violate the speed limit zones on Newtons Corner Road de­spite good signs and heavy police en­forcement.