Kzoo Twp. neighbors concerned about safety after speed limit increased

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kalamazoo Township neighborhood is calling for the change of a new speed limit that they say is dangerous for both drivers and pedestrians.

Many drivers pass through Nichols Road in Kalamazoo Township, which turns into 14th Street in Cooper Township.

But those who live there, including Denise Hartsough, are saying it’s dangerous how fast vehicles are passing through, especially since King-Westwood Elementary School is along this stretch.

“We’re a neighborhood. We want to keep people in our neighborhood safe,” Hartsough said.

It started last year in Cooper Township, when administrators there requested a speed study for 14th Street. After conducting it, state troopers concluded the speed limit should be increased from 35 to 45 due to Michigan’s 85th Percentile Rule, in which the speed is set at the point 85% of drivers do not exceed.

However, it ended up applying to the Nichols Road portion too. With a narrow 4-3 vote, Hartsough said the Kalamazoo County Road Commission approved the increase.

“We felt like the interests of the neighborhood weren’t being respected with that vote,” Hartsough said.

Hartsough says the higher speeds make it dangerous for pedestrians, bikers and local drivers leaving or coming home. With the help of the Charter Township of Kalamazoo and a petition of more than 400 signatures, she hopes Michigan State Police will have the limit lowered.

“Having the speed limit higher here on Nichols Road, in our neighborhood, than it is right over there on West Main? That’s crazy to us,” Hartsough said.

There are efforts in Lansing that may also help reverse course and pump the brakes for good.

In March, the House passed H.B. 4014, which would change the 85th percentile rule.

Under the new language, the speed limit “may be set below the eighty-fifth percentile speed if an engineering and safety study demonstrates a situation with hazards to public safety that are not reflected by the eighty-fifth percentile speed, but must not be set below the fiftieth percentile speed.”

Rep. Julie Rogers, D-Kalamazoo, is a co-sponsor of the bill.

“Because the law is the way it is in Michigan, (the speed limit) is never going to go down. It is always going to go up if you ask for a speed study.” Rogers explained. “Because concerns of safety in the community are at issue, (H.B. 4014) allows it to go down rather than up.”

The bill is now in the Michigan Senate, where Rogers claims some lawmakers from rural areas argue that it would make the speed limits too low in their jurisdictions. Rogers says the bill does not force any changes to any limits and that it opens the door for those in more populated areas to be lowered under the current surveying protocols.

“It’s not mandating 50%. It’s giving that flexibility,” Rogers said. “But right now, if some kind of legislation isn’t fixed, we’re going to continue to have these problems. I hope that we do not have a death while we are waiting for this legislation. But I can see how (speed limits) just can get out of hand, and go up and up and up.”

The bill was referred to the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville. But nine months later, a hearing on it is yet to be scheduled.

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