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City changes course on Old Stage Road

Rejects formal study, mulls 30 mph compromise

Vehicles travel along Old Stage Road in Morris during August 2012, in the newly reduced speed zone. Police will update statistics for the location before a compromise proposal to raise the limit to 30 mph is considered.
Vehicles travel along Old Stage Road in Morris during August 2012, in the newly reduced speed zone. Police will update statistics for the location before a compromise proposal to raise the limit to 30 mph is considered.

The city of Morris will not be spending $2,500 on a new engineering study to decide on the appropriate speed limit for Old Stage Road. Instead, it is trying to come to a compromise.

At the end of last month, the Street and Alley Com-mittee voted to spend $2,500 on an engineering study to determine whether the speed limit on Old Stage Road should stay 25 mph or be changed back to 35 mph.

At another meeting, held before the city council meeting Monday, the committee rescinded that vote, and Alderman Drew Muffler said he is talking with the residents and aldermen to see if a 30 mph compromise is the solution.

“When we switched over from 35 to 25 mph, a study provided by the police department then was more than sufficient for the state required needs,” said Muffler, chairman of the committee, after council.

The speed limit has been 25 mph since the city council voted for the change in June 2012. The speed limit was 35 mph from 2003 to 2012; prior to 2003, it was 25 mph.

The change was brought forth by the committee after Hatcher’s Woods resident Harry Benner went to the committee to ask for double yellow lines on the road to stop people from passing. He had safety concerns and, after discussion and research, the committee decided to change the limit.

After the speed limit change, Hatcher’s Woods resident Dave Hextell told the city he felt the majority of the neighborhood did not want the reduction in the speed  limit. The city later sent surveys to the area residents and of the 155 surveys sent out, 17 came back in favor of leaving the speed limit 25 mph, 79 wanted it back at 35, and 59 surveys were not sent back to the city.

Muffler said last month it was discovered that when the city changed the speed limit in 2003 to 35 mph, a traffic study should have been done first, according to state statute. To change it back to 35 mph, a study would have to be done.

But at that time, the police department did its own study, gathering traffic and accident data from the area to help the committee members in making their decision. Muffler said the city attorney stated now that the police study meets the state requirements.

“The committee looked at this and, after talking to the city attorney and Chamlin & Associates (the city’s engineering firm), the committee rescinded their authorization, so the study will not be performed,” Mayor Richard Kopczick said Friday.

So instead of spending $2,500 on an engineering study, the Morris police will just be updating their data for the committee to look again at the speed limit on Old Stage.

In addition, the city is looking at a possible compromise for those in favor of 25 and those for 35 by meeting in the middle, at 30 mph, said Muffler.

Committee member Alderman Randy Larson said a previous comment made by a resident upset with the $2,500 of taxpayer money being spent was bothering him, so he called the committee members to see how they would feel about approaching the residents with a 30 mph compromise.

Neighborhood representatives from both sides of the issue were there, he said Friday, and the committee was advised by the city attorney to have the police department get updated speed data first and to come back then to discuss the possibility of making it 30 mph.

After doing some research of his own on speed limits and fatalities, Larson said he still has safety concerns for children in that area.

“When (a vehicle is going) above 35 mph, the rate of fatality goes through the roof,” said Larson.

Alderman Bill Martin agreed he would rather save the $2,500 if using the police department’s data stayed within the parameters of the law.

“I think 30 mph would be safe, but it is good that we are having the police department check this with their own traffic study,” said Martin Friday.

Benner, who has been present at most of the meetings discussing the speed limit, was not at the recent meeting where this compromise was brought up. In a phone call Friday, Brenner did not want to comment, but said he would have further comments at the next meeting where this topic is on the agenda.

A call to Hextell for his thoughts was not returned before press time.

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