Crawford County officials hope to put a halt on plans to raise M-72 East speed limit
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners fired off a resolution of protest to state officials last week, urging them not to increase the speed limit to 65 mph on M-72 East within the county limits.
The county board passed the resolution opposing increasing the speed limit on M-72 East at its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, July 27.
Public Act 445, passed by the state Legislature in late 2016, tasked the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Michigan State Police with increasing speed limits on some state highways and freeways based on 85th-percentile speeds, the speed at or below which 85 percent of traffic is moving, and the results of engineering and safety studies, according to MDOT. The law requires that these modified speed limits be in place prior to Jan. 5, 2018.
In May, freeway speeds were increased on I-75 in Roscommon, Crawford, and Otsego counties. Speed limits were also hiked on US-127 traveling through Roscommon and Crawford counties.
Due to a snafu with paperwork, the speed limit on M-72 East between Grayling and Mio will not increase to 65 mph until sometime in November.
Crawford County officials hope to block the plan to hike the speed limits.
The county board, through its resolution, notes that the imminent increase will lead to an increase in traffic violations along this stretch, demanding more law enforcement patrol and action.
The board also stressed that there are also a number of bus stops along this route, which will increase the danger to school children once school starts and the amount of hours of daylight diminishes.
The board added that Crawford County, being comprised of 75 percent of public land, does not have the resources to manage traffic patterns once the speed limit increases, thereby increasing the risks to both those that live along this stretch and those that will be travelling this route.
Finally, the Crawford County Board called for state officials to reverse their decision with regards to this stretch of road regarding the speed limit increase.
The resolution was sent to Gov. Rick Snyder, Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, the Michigan State Police, MDOT, the Michigan Association of Counties, and the Oscoda County Board of Commissioners.
It was unclear if Oscoda County officials will also oppose plans to increase the speed limit increase.
“From our county line, they do not have near the amount of traffic that we have going into Mio,” said Dave Stephenson, the chairman of the Crawford County Board of Commissioners.
Oscoda County Sheriff Kevin R. Grace acknowledged that he is not in favor of seeing the speed limit go up.
“Obviously our job is to enforce the law, not to make it,” Grace said. “I’m not a fan of it.”
Grace predicted that the potential for personal injuries will increase when there are car-deer crashes and accidents where motorists are traveling in inclement weather.
Grace said his road patrol deputies would have less leniency for motorists that push the speed limit if it increases.
“We are going to try at keeping it as close to 65 mph than anything over that,” he said.
Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield also sent a formal protest to Gov. Snyder about raising the speed limit in the county.
In his letter, Wakefield said a majority of citizens who have given him feedback on the proposed speed limit increase are opposed to the change.
“What in the world are they thinking?” Wakefield said. “This road is dangerous enough as it is.”
Wakefield urged Snyder to visit Crawford County as more deliberations on the speed limit increase takes place.
“I welcome you personally to visit with me and I will personally take you for a scenic tour of M-72 East to show you first hand my concerns with raising the speed limit on this section of road,” Wakefield wrote in his letter.
James Lake, the spokesperson for MDOT’s North Transportation Service Center, said the speed limits recommended were based on the features of the routes and prevailing speeds.
“Our process was aimed at implementing this new law as safely as possible,” Lake said.
Lake stressed that studies on the speed limit increases were done through a partnership with the Michigan State Police, and any further consideration regarding the speed limits would follow the same process.
“We would have to look at what is going on with these routes in consultation with the Michigan State Police,” Lake said.