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Officials approve speed limit increase

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GREENFIELD — Speed limits for schools in rural parts of the county will increase to 30 mph soon, with enforcement at the beginning and end of the school days.

The Hancock County Commissioners Tuesday agreed to an ordinance that will raise the limit from the current 25 mph; state law says the minimum should be 30 mph for rural roads.

The limits will be in place 7 to 9 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. on school days only. The change will begin when new signs are installed, which will be a matter of weeks, said Joe Copeland, engineer for the county highway department.

Copeland said the change must be formally advertised twice; new signs will be purchased.

The new speed limits will affect Eastern Hancock schools; Southern Hancock’s Sugar Creek and Brandywine elementary schools; Mt. Comfort Elementary School; and Zion Lutheran School. Schools within city and town limits, such as Greenfield-Central schools, will not be affected because the county commissioners do not have jurisdiction over city streets.

While Doe Creek Middle School is under the county’s jurisdiction, the speed limit along CR 200S will remain 45 mph because the rural school was built away from the road and has a separate drive.

Commissioners have been debating the changes for a few weeks now. Last summer, McCordsville officials changed the speed limit to 30 mph on CR 600W in front of McCordsville Elementary School to ease traffic and congestion concerns. From there, the county’s executive branch began asking questions about speed limits in front of other rural schools.

Copeland, who has been performing a speed study on all county roads, said it makes sense for all roads in front of rural schools to have a 30 mph speed limit. But Derek Towle, president of the county commissioners, raised concerns about the times the speed limits would be enforced, saying school opening times can fluctuate and having two-hour windows of restrictions makes the roads more dangerous. He ultimately voted against the measure Tuesday.

Commissioners Brad Armstrong and Tom Stevens said they’ve had no feedback about the change at all.

Indeed, Eastern Hancock Superintendent Randy Harris said he has more concerns about the condition of CR 250N, noting the road in front of his schools is deteriorating.

“I don’t have a big concern about that,” Harris said of the change in the speed limit. “The 5 mph I don’t think is going to make a huge difference around the school. We have enough green space; we pretty much keep the kids away from the roads.”

Harris added that he’s pleased the county sheriff’s department has been regularly monitoring traffic in front of the school to make sure students and staff are safe. Commissioners have thought about adding flashing lights to speed limit signs, and Harris said that would help focus motorists’ attention on the restrictions even more.

Stevens asked Copeland to keep an eye out for funds that would pay for solar-powered flashing lights for the signs. Copeland said there might be federal grant money available for flashing lights.

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