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Mequon reduces speed limit along Lake Shore Drive

Experts say to stay as is; residents say it's a safety matter

Dec. 12, 2012

Mequon - Despite several recommendations against it, the Common Council on Tuesday voted, 5-3, to reduce the speed limit along portions of North Lake Shore Drive.

Several city staffers, including Police Chief Steve Graff, recommended keeping the 35-mile-per hour limit as is. The city's hired consulting firm, Traffic Analysis and Design, weighed in with a similar opinion after reviewing the area.

"I don't consider this a residential road, even though there are residences along it," Graff said.

Enhances pedestrian safety

But residents living along the corridor have implored the city to reduce the limit to 30 miles per hour with the hopes of enhancing bicycle and pedestrian safety. The impacted area along Lake Shore Drive will be between Highland and Mequon roads.

Resident Phil Koepke was the sole resident to speak at Tuesday's meeting. He asserted the recommendations from city staff and the consultant were flawed. Speeding, he said, is a safety issue in and of itself.

Kristen Lundeen, Mequon engineering services manager, said the majority of motorists traveling along the area in question do travel at a higher rate of speed.

"Traffic counts show that the 85th percentile speed on this section of Lake Shore Drive is approximately 44 to 47 miles per hour or 9 to 12 miles per hour over the posted speed limit," Lundeen said.

Could cause accidents

While motorists have been traveling beyond the posted limits, Graff said artificially lowering the speed limit could cause unintended consequences, including greater rear-end collisions.

"This could cause greater road rage in an area where there is a low crash rate," Graff said. "We have years of engineering studies and data suggesting we not do this."

In a memo to the city, John Campbell of Traffic Analysis and Design not only recommended against reducing the speed limit but stated portions of Lake Shore Drive should be increased to 45 miles per hour.

Campbell's recommendation came out of a calculation that examined average speed limits, crash rates and use of pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

"Lowering speed limits on the studied corridors would be expected to increase speed variability and thus have a negative impact on traffic safety," Campbell wrote in his memo.

During deliberations, the council acknowledged all of the recommendations. Alderwoman Pam Adams said she reviewed the various reports and staff recommendations.

"But the bottom line is we're the policy makers," Adams said. "A reduction in the speed limit is truly what the residents want."

Lundeen said eight new speed limit signs will need to be installed as a result of the change, costing the city about $256.

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