Local officials questioned a proposal from the Department of Transportation (DOT) on Tuesday.
The Sentinel initially reported that the proposal was set to increase the speed to 55 MPH based on County officials statements, however, Jennifer Berg of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) stated that her report, still in draft form, recommending changing the speed limit to 45 MPH based on data involving the 85 percentile of drivers.
Berg along with representatives from the Sheriff’s Office and the Highway Department attended the Traffic Safety Commission meeting on Tuesday afternoon at the Government Center.
About 30 citizens attended the meeting to voice their opinion on the subject following a large amount of discussion in the community and on social media.
There have been a number of concerns with the speed zone, according to Hoefs. He added the original intent was to move the speed zone west on State Highway 70 to help with vehicles slowing down sooner.
That was when the DOT stepped in to do their traffic study and a speed investigation.
“With this data, if that number was the only thing we looked at, we could raise the speed limit to 55, however, that is not all we look at,” Berg said. They also review traffic counts, crash data, pedestrian information, and entryway data. “Looking at all that information my recommendation was to change the speed and bring it up to 45 (MPH).”
Berg said it is DOT policy to typically do the traffic count only during weekdays, however this traffic count included a pair of weekends.
“A car not impacted by turning vehicles is not impacted by this study,” Berg said. “The DOT study only applies to cars with a six-second headway between you the car in front of you.”
Tailgating cars and turning cars are not involved in the speed study, Berg said.
“Different demographics going through there and different types of drivers in that area,” Hoefs said. Many in the crowd noted that weekend drivers and week drivers are very different through that area with lots of out of town traffic driving on Highway 70.
“There’s a lot of farm equipment on that road,” Don Chell said. “Especially during harvest season.”
“I don’t disagree with anything besides changing the speed limit,” Hoefs said. “That’s the main issue.”
Sheriff Finch also has an issue with raising the speed limit through this section
“I’m very much opposed to it. I believe it’s a safety issue,” Finch said. “I don’t think this data is accurate of our area.”
“We cannot qualify for safety funding,” Berg said.
The DOT, because of the lack of fatal accidents in the area the township or county will have to pay for the changes recommended by the DOT.
“If we are asked to look at a speed zone, we look at the whole speed zone,” Berg said. “And it might not come back the way you expected.”
Second look at data
Siren Police Chief Chris Sybers suggested putting up a ‘Your Speed’ sign entering the speed zone in Alpha and then do another speed and traffic study.
“We’ve got those in my town (Siren) and in Grantsburg,” Sybers said.
Berg said the DOT would look into another speed study with those signs. She said her report will remain open and as a draft while the county may be doing their own speed/traffic studies over the next couple of months.