Michigan Senate panel reviews speed limits rule revision

October 14, 2021

Keith Goble

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A Michigan Senate committee has discussed a bill that is touted to address “flaws” in how local roadway speed limits are set.

Michigan law states that an engineering and safety study be conducted to modify a speed limit. Additionally, speed limits on state and local roads must be rounded to the nearest multiple of 5 mph.

‘Flexibility’ sought in setting limits

The Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing Wednesday, Oct. 13, to discuss a bill to revise how the state observes the 85th percentile speed limit rule – the speed at or below which 85 % of vehicles travel in free-flowing traffic. House lawmakers have already approved the bill.

Sponsored by Rep. Bradley Slagh, R-Zeeland, HB4014 would give the state flexibility to round down the 85th percentile speed when necessary. Specifically, local officials could set the speed limit to a multiple of 5 mph within 5 mph of the 85th percentile instead of the nearest 5 mph.

Slagh provided the committee with the example of the 85th percentile speed on a roadway to be 37.6 mph. His bill would give the state flexibility to set the speed limit at 35 instead of being required to bump it up to 40 mph.

“Setting it at 40 mph creates a problem because we are now at a higher speed than the recommended road studies would give you,” Slagh said in committee testimony.

The legislation also would remove the requirement of an engineering and safety study to be conducted to alter a speed limit. Instead, a modified speed limit could be determined in accordance with traffic engineering practices that provide “an objective analysis of the characteristics of the highway.”

Additionally, the bill would allow a speed limit to be set below the 85th percentile if an engineering and safety study showed a situation with hazards to public safety that are not reflected by the 85th percentile speed.

Slagh said roadways near schools, parks or hospitals would qualify under the special privilege.

“We must allow local governments to do what’s best for their communities,” Slagh stated.

Todd Scott, executive director for the Detroit Greenways Coalition, testified that the bill would clarify the law “to ensure there is modest flexibility when setting safer speed limits” on state, county, and local roads.

HB4014 awaits further consideration in the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. LL

More Land Line coverage of news from Michigan is available.

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.