Speed limits on one Grayling area highway, and pair of freeways hiked
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
While the main idea of living and visiting northern Michigan is to slow down, view the scenic vistas, and visit unique businesses and attractions, the speed limit on two major thoroughfares traveling through Grayling was hiked starting Monday.
About 1,500 miles of Michigan state highway will see a speed limit increase starting on May 1.
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) said 900 miles will see an increase to 65 mph, and 600 miles will see an increase to 75 mph.
“Public Act 445, passed by the state Legislature in late 2016, tasked (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 the Grayling area, 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.
The only non-freeway in the area, where the speed limit was increased, is M-72 between Grayling to Mio in Crawford and Oscoda Counties.
Crawford County Sheriff Kirk A. Wakefield is no fan of the state lawmakers, who made the decision to raise speed limits.
“It’s just stupid,” Wakefield said. “Everybody is driving 10 miles over the speed limit as it is, and most law enforcement agencies aren’t enforcing it. What’s going to happen now is everybody is going to be driving 10 miles over the speed limit, again, with the new speed limit, which is even going to be faster.”
Wakefield said hiking the speed limits would hit the pocketbooks and wallets of motorists traveling through the state.
“I don’t know what they’re thinking,” he said. “Why is everybody in such a big hurry? All the government is doing is making you spend more money and use more fuel.”
Wakefield is particularly concerned about the public safety implications of raising the speed limits, raising the amount of automobile accidents and car-deer crashes.
“The crashes are just going to be more horrific,” he said. “You’ve got crashes out there now where we’re just picking up the pieces. It’s going to get worse.”
The past president of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, Wakefield said law enforcement organizations were not in favor of raising speed limits.
“It was somebody’s pet peeve that they had to get pushed through,” Wakefield said.
Wakefield said drivers would no longer have the cushion of driving 10 miles over the speed limit, especially on M-72.
“I’m going to change my tolerance,” he said. “Now it’s 65 and people are going to be driving 75. That ain’t going to happen anymore. I’m going to start enforcing the exact speed limit, period.”
MDOT will begin posting new speed limits beginning May 1, starting with freeway routes.
“While implementing these modified speed limits, MDOT also will install advisory speed and curve warning signs, shorten passing zones, move signs, and change pavement markings where necessary. Reduced speed limits in communities along these corridors will remain in place,” according to MDOT.
“The corridors identified by MDOT and MSP were selected not only because studies indicated most drivers were already driving at those increased speeds, but also because their design and safety features were best suited to these speed limits,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “We reviewed design speeds, crash patterns, number of access points, traffic volumes and continuity of these corridors, and chose them to minimize necessary improvements for higher speed limits.”
Michigan State Police brass said they would be strictly enforcing the new speed limits.
“The engineering and safety studies conducted utilized the 85th-percentile speed, which is a national scientifically proven method to determine and establish safe speed limits,” said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the MSP. “Troopers and motor carrier officers do, and will continue to, aggressively enforce all posted speed limits to ensure compliance by the motoring public.”