Lawmakers eye higher speed limits

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LANSING — A new package of bills could result in higher speed limits on state roads across Michigan.

The bills are designed to set optimum speeds on state roadways by relying on driver behavior, road conditions and accident data, according to officials with the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Transportation. The package would also restrict local governments from arbitrarily lowering speed limits on sections of roadway, supporters said.

A similar proposal was introduced two years ago by Republican Sen. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, a former county sheriff who supports the bills.

“The Michigan State Police gave a presentation on how, for 40 years, speed limits have been set scientifically and it has been shown to be the safest speed,” Jones said.

The new legislation would cut down on speed traps by preventing township boards and other local units from lowering speed limits due to factors such as the road commission being petitioned to lower the limit near houses.

“It would stop cities from artificially posting at lower limits,” Jones said. “For example, we found a number of cities that were posting 25 mph zones in roads that should be 35, 40 or even 45, and then they were ordering their police to sit in those zones and write as many tickets as they could.”

Tom Frazier, the legislative liaison for the Michigan Townships Association, said talk about speed traps is exaggerated. Townships and other local governments typically work with the Michigan State Police and county road commissions on speed studies.

“I do not think that is a legitimate issue, frankly,” Frazier said. “When we petition the county road commission to lower a speed limit, generally that is because township residents along that particular road have requested it or come to the township with concerns about the speed of vehicles on a particular road. So being the government that is closest to the people, the residents come to the township board with those concerns.”

Under the package, townships would not be able to reduce speeds on state roads. Instead, the bills would require speeds to be set by data collected by the Michigan State Police, Michigan County Road Association and Michigan Department of Transportation.

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