Speeding up

GREENFIELD — Lead-foot drivers are getting their way: Speed limits on the city’s west side are increasing — as much as 15 mph in some spots — after studies showed many drivers already were exceeding posted speed limits in the area, officials said.

The Greenfield City Council recently approved new speed limits for sections of Meridian and McKenzie roads and County Road 100S on the city’s west side, and drivers should see new signs advertising those limits in the next few weeks. Speed limits will increase between 5 and 15 mph.

Meridian Road between County Road 100S and Main Street will increase to 50 mph. Currently, the speed limit is 35 near Main Street; it’s 45 closer to County Road 100S. On County Road 100S, the speed limit will be raised to 55 mph; currently, it’s 50, and McKenzie Road between Meridian and Windswept roads will be raised from 45 to 50.

The changes are a result of the city annexing 360 acres of property owned by Covance, which brought sections of Meridian and McKenzie roads and County Road 100S into city limits, said Mayor Chuck Fewell. The current speed limits were set by the county.

Mitch Pendlum, a city councilman who is part of the traffic safety committee, said oftentimes recommendations for speed limit changes come from law enforcement, city officials or concerned citizens. But when a road is annexed into the city, the council needs to pass an ordinance regulating a speed limit, which requires a traffic study, typically conducted by local law enforcement.

The traffic study helps officials determine whether the speed limit is too slow or too fast based on the speed most drivers are traveling, said Greenfield Police Department Maj. Derek Towle, who sits on the city’s traffic safety committee.

Officials consider a variety of factors in the study, including how many vehicles travel the road, how fast the cars drive and the area’s crash history. It’s not as simple as picking a speed and posting a new sign, he said. When setting the speed limit, officials look to the speed at which 85 percent of vehicles are driving at or below.

Traffic safety experts use the 85 percent rule throughout the country because they assume 85 percent of drivers travel at a safe and reasonable speed, and only 15 percent travel dangerously fast or slow, officials said.

Because police are looking for an accurate average, data is collected over time, usually between seven and 10 days so as to cover both a typical work week as well as a weekend. Once that information is collected, the traffic safety committee — made up of the city’s engineer and street commissioner, elected officials and law enforcement — makes a recommendation. The group then looks to the city council to make an ordinance that sets the speed limit and penalties for violating it to allow police to enforce the changes.

On Meridian Road, the maximum speed a vehicle drove during the study was 90.2 mph, the report shows; the minimum was 9.6 mph. It showed only 13.7 percent of vehicles drove faster than 50 — the new speed limit.

On McKenzie Road, the maximum speed driven was 81.3 mph, and the minimum was 8.6. About 47 percent of vehicles drove more than 50 mph.

On County Road 100S, the maximum speed was 97.5 mph, and the minimum was 8.2. About 78 percent of drivers traveled below 56 mph.

Towle said the traffic safety committee aims to set limits that keep traffic flowing, and sometimes, increases are necessary.

“The primary goal is to keep the driving public safe, and that’s what we aim for,” he said. “And we still want to move traffic in the most efficient way.”

The city council approved the ordinance earlier this month, but the changes won’t be in effect until new signs are posted, said Towle. In the meantime, drivers should travel the speed that’s advertised.

Tyler Rankins, street commissioner, said the new signs have been ordered; he expects them to be delivered within the next few weeks.

Because the speed limits are being increased and not decreased, officials don’t expect there to be a problem with speeding.

Still, they say it will take time for some drivers to get used to the change. They encourage drivers to be patient if the vehicle in front of them is traveling slowly.

What's changing?

Three streets in Greenfield will see increased speed limits in the coming weeks:

Meridian Road between County Road 100S and U.S. 40 will increase to 50 mph. Speed limits are currently 35 near U.S. 40 and 45 near County Road 100S.

County Road 100S between Franklin Street and Meridian Road will change from 50 to 55 mph.

McKenzie Road from Meridian Road to Windswept Road will change from 45 to 50 mph.

What's the 85 percent rule?

Traffic experts across the country use the 85 percent rule to help determine speed limits. The speed that 85 percent of drivers are traveling at or below is considered to be a reasonable speed and the highest that is safe.

Fast facts

A traffic study was conducted to determine the best speed limits for the area. Officials noted the maximum and minimum speeds traveled when determining what speed to post. Low speeds usually indicate when a person is slowing down, to make a turn, for example, while high speeds record the area’s fastest drivers.

Meridian Road

  • Maximum speed = 90.2 mph
  • Minimum speed = 9.6 mph

Davis Road

  • Maximum speed = 97.5 mph
  • Minimum speed = 8.2 mph

McKenzie Road

  • Maximum speed = 81.3 mph
  • Minimum speed = 8.6 mph
Author photo
Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.