Speed limit hike still rankles residents, trustees

WATERVLIET – Many residents in Watervliet Township say the speed limit on Forest Beach Road is too high.

The speed limit was increased from 25 mph to 40 mph earlier this year after a traffic study was conducted on the street, and many others in the county.

Lester Fairbanks, who lives on a road off of Forest Beach Road, told the Watervliet Township Board of Trustees Monday night that he has heard different things from the county and state legislators, and wants to know if something can be done to lower the speed limit.

Trustees agreed the higher speed limit is not good for the road, which is frequented used by pedestrians.

The changes were the result of traffic speed studies conducted by the county’s road department and Michigan State Police. The studies were requested by township trustees earlier this year because, without a traffic study, the default limit would become 55 mph. 

The roads that had been posted at 25 miles per hour were not valid because of a 2006 state law that removed “residential” from the considerations for setting restrictions.

Signs that listed a lower limit were in effect illegal and unenforceable.

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution this summer opposing state speed limit law changes and asking to be able to request a waiver when a speed limit study is done in a township.

Trustee Joe Stepich said he thinks 40 mph is too high for Forest Beach Road. He would like to see a change in the state law so townships have the authority to change speed limits. 

Township Supervisor Dan Hutchins said not many days go by when he doesn’t get a phone call about this. 

“No one took into account that the road is used for a lot of things other than cars,” he said. “Township residents paid to fix the road just last year even though it’s a primary road where the county can set the speed limit.”

Hutchins suggested having a meeting with the county, township and residents to understand why the speed limit was changed. County Commissioner Dave Vollrath agreed to help set up the meeting for some time the week of Nov. 12 at the township hall. 

In other business, the board approved selling an old police cruiser to Watervliet for the cost of some recent repairs costing about $1,700. The Berrien County Sheriff’s deputy that is assigned to the township has a new patrol vehicle and doesn’t need the old cruiser anymore. 

The city will use the cruiser for the school resource officer. 

The township agreed to lease its ambulance building to Pride Care for $600 a month. 

Hutchins said that is a good deal as the building is paid off. The rent will pay the utilities and insurance. 

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman