Michigan State Police and MDOT propose more speed limit increases in Ypsilanti
A Michigan Department of Transportation speed study will raise the speed limits in some of Ypsilanti’s busiest intersections and areas.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
Michigan State Police First Lt. Thad Peterson presented the study during Tuesday's Ypsilanti City Council meeting.
Speed limit increases as much as up to 10 miles per hour were presented. Most areas that have high pedestrian populations, such as Cross Street and areas near Eastern Michigan University's campus, do not have proposed increases.
In April, MDOT and the MSP proposed speed limit changes to additional roads.
Speed limits are determined jointly by MDOT and the MSP through speed studies that analyze data using a measurement called the “85th percentile” speed, which is the speed at or below 85 percent of vehicles are traveling.
Peterson said they examine a road's accident history, the number of lanes, the number of curves and how many hills it has, in addition to the roadside environment, which includes access points, the number of cars, the number of crosswalks, stop signs and other determining factors.
Peterson said most crashes aren’t because of high speed but instead reckless driving, distraction and intoxication. He noted that most people are afraid that by increasing speed limits, people will drive faster.
Contrary to popular belief, increasing speed limits has quite the opposite effect, Peterson said.
“One thing we have to explain to people is that usually everyone thinks if you increase the speed limit drivers go faster and it tends not to happen that way,” he said. “There’s a very small percentage of people that actually speed up.”
Peterson said more accidents are caused by individuals who try to stay close to the actual speed limit as opposed to those who go above it.
“They’re the ones that actually cause some of our traffic problems because they have people weaving around them,” he said. “It seems wrong for a police officer to say that the people who are driving slow are causing the problems but it’s actually true.” One example Peterson gave to council was that the vast majority of individuals drive 45 mph on Washtenaw near Golfside even though the limit is 40. The individual that is actual going the speed limit causes everyone else to make abrupt lane changes that might result in accidents, he said.
“You end up with unintentional tailgating and it really causes a discontinuity in the traffic flow,” he said. “That’s where our crashes come from.”
Peterson said by setting the speed limit near the 85th percentile speed, it brings individuals driving the speed limit up into the normal range and in turn, reduces speed differentials.
Mayor Pro-Tem Lois Richardson said the proposed speed increases are a “punishment” for drivers who pay close attention to the speed limit.
“If I’m going the speed limit, I don’t think it’s fair for those that want to speed to try to force me to go faster,” Richardson said. “I’m one of those people that think if the speed limit increases, they’re just going to go faster.”
Studies performed across the state in other college towns such as East Lansing and Mount Pleasant and even those that are dissimilar, such as Saline, show that increasing the speed limit does reduce crashes, according to Peterson.
“In every case we have caused there to be a much nicer driving environment because we take out little snags in traffic,” he said. “The snags are caused by people that are driving too slow. It really works.”
Councilmember Michael Bodary was largely against the idea of increasing speed limits.
“I put this out to my constituents and all of the responses I got were negative,” Bodary said. “Not a single response came back positive. I think because some of them seem to be a bit extreme.”
Bodary said some of the proposed changes include some roads where there is a significant amount of lane changing and increased speed, which would only cause more accidents and potentially, fatalities.
“Some of these are bad places to raise the limit, including the fact that there was a fatality two years ago with a pedestrian hit by a car near College Place,” Bodary said. “I think this particular point is a bad choice.”
Ypsilanti police Chief Amy Walker said she respects Peterson’s professional expertise but she is a bit concerned about certain areas proposed to see speed limit increases.
“Time will tell and we’ll do what we can do,” Walker said. “I just can’t imagine it getting any faster along Huron because we get a lot of complaints.”
Peterson implored that the studies are being done across the country and getting much needed results.
“One thing we see consistently around the country is there is one way to eliminate a speeding problem and that is by changing the number on the sign,” Peterson said. "This is what science tells us is the best thing. I personally understand everyone doesn't get these things but it's something we do every so often."
Wendy Ramirez, MDOT traffic and safety engineer, said the limits become effective upon placement of the necessary regulatory signs. When signs are in place, the regulation becomes effective on the date of a Traffic Control Order being co-signed by the directors of MDOT and MSP.
Based on the results of the engineering and traffic investigation, the survey party is recommending the following speed limits:
- 30 mph on East Michigan Avenue from Hamilton Street to the Huron River. Existing speed limit: 30 mph
- 40 mph from the Huron River to Johnson Road. Existing speed limit: Huron River to Park Rd: 30 mph; Park Road to Johnson Road: 35 mph
- 50 mph from Johnson Road to Holmes Road. Existing speed limit: Johnson Road to Allen Road: 45 mph; Allen Road to Holmes Road: 50 mph
- 30 mph on Huron Street from Michigan Avenue to Ferris Street. Existing speed limit: 30 mph
- 35 mph on Hamilton Street from Michigan Avenue to Ferris Street. Existing speed limit: 30 mph
- 40 mph on Huron and Hamilton Streets from Ferris Street to 0.2 miles south of the eastbound I-94 exit ramp. Existing speed limit: Ferris Street to Harriet: 30 mph; Harriet to 0.2 miles south of the eastbound I-94 exit ramp: 40 mph
- 45 mph on Washtenaw Avenue from the west right-of-way of US-23 to Oakwood Street. Existing speed limit: West right-of-way of US-23 to Mansfield: 40 mph; Mansfield to Oakwood: 35 mph
- 40 mph on Washtenaw Avenue from Oakwood to North Summit Street. Existing speed limit: 35 mph
- 35 mph on Washtenaw Avenue and North Hamilton Street from North Summit Street to US-12 West Michigan Avenue. Existing speed limit: North Summit to Hamilton: 35 mph. On Hamilton between Washtenaw and Michigan: 30 mph
- 30 mph on North Huron Street from US-12 West Michigan Avenue to Pearl Street. Existing speed limit: 30 mph
- 35 mph on North Huron Street and West Cross from Pearl Street to Ballard Street. Existing Speed limit: 30 mph
- 30 mph on West Cross from from Ballard Street to North Summit Street. Existing speed limit: 30 mph
- 40 mph on Ecorse Road from US-12 Michigan Avenue to 100 feet west of Oaklawn. Existing speed limit: US-12 (Michigan Ave) to Oaklawn: 35 mph
- 45 mph on Ecorse from 100 feet west of Oaklawn Avenue to 0.3 miles east of South Harris Road. Existing speed limit: Oaklawn to Harris: 35 mph; Harris to 0.3 miles east of South Harris Road: 45 mph
Proposed limit increases are highlighted below:
View MDOT Ypsilanti Speed Increases in a larger map
Katrease Stafford covers the city of Ypsilanti for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at KatreaseStafford@annarbor.com. You can also follow her on Twitter.