Legislature Considering Bills That Would Remove Local Control Over Setting Speed Limits

Posted on November 18, 2015 by Dene Westbrook

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is considering five bills, HB 4423, 4424, 4425, 4426, and 4427, that would dramatically impact the ability of local units to set safe and context sensitive speed limits within their municipal boundaries.

HB 4425 would require that speed limits be set at the 85th percentile of speed. Fundamentally, we believe that all users of the roadway should be taken into account when setting a speed limit. The 85th speed study within this legislation is set up to look only at the free-flow of traffic, under ideal conditions, and on the fastest portion of the roadway. We believe this completely neglects taking the context of the roadway, the surrounding environment, pedestrian traffic (walking or biking), transit, or the views and needs of the community into account.

When we look at the 85th percentile of speed, it should be a diagnosis not a prescription. It can be a useful and rational tool to help understand speeds on on local streets but should not be looked at as the only solution. Other states incorporate a broad number of mitigation criteria that allow flexibility to lower speed limits below the 85th percentile of speed. Too often we talk just about increasing the speed to the 85th percentile for safety reasons but rarely do we talk about how we could reduce the 85th percentile so everyone using the roadway is safer.

Each community is best suited to understand local conditions that place children, the disabled, seniors and other vulnerable roadway users in harm’s way, and we are opposed to any attempt that diminishes our communities efforts and ability to provide a safe and inviting environment.

We encourage you to reach out to your legislator and ask that they do not take away local control over our ability to set speed limits. Additionally you may choose to adopt a resolution such as Grand Haven and Grandville have done and share that with your legislator.

John LaMacchia is a Legislative Associate for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, and energy issues. He can be reached at [email protected] or 517-908-0303.


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