By NIKKI YOUNK
QUINNESEC - Officials from the local, county, and state levels were on hand Monday at the Breitung Township Hall for a town hall meeting to discuss lowering the speed limit on U.S. 2 through Quinnesec.
Nikki Younk/Daily News Photo
Panel members answer audience questions about traffic safety in Quinnesec during a town hall meeting at the Breitung Township Hall Monday. Pictured are, from left, Mike Premo of the Michigan Department of Transportation, Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Celello, Breitung Township Supervisor Denny Olson, and Breitung Township Superintendent Joe Rogina. Panel members not pictured include Jim Harris of the Dickinson County Road Commission and Trooper Geno Basanese of the Michigan State Police Iron Mountain post.
Although no decisions were made, officials and residents were able to share their concerns and propose potential plans of action.
Panel members included Breitung Township Supervisor Denny Olson, Breitung Township Superintendent Joe Rogina, Dickinson County Sheriff Scott Celello, Jim Harris of the Dickinson County Road Commission, Trooper Geno Basanese of the Michigan State Police Iron Mountain Post, and Mike Premo of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
Olson explained that the main purpose of the meeting was to gather input.
Out of the seven residents who attended the meeting, most expressed concern with the number of "close calls" they see on a daily basis at the intersection of U.S. 2 and Lake Antoine Road. They worry about drivers traveling too fast, running the red light, and not allowing pedestrians time to cross the highway.
Lowering the speed limit from 55 miles per hour to 50 or 45 miles per hour could alleviate some of these problems, they said.
According to Premo, lowering a speed limit is not an easy thing to do.
"People drive at a speed they're comfortable with and speed limits are made to reflect that," he explained. "If speed limits are too high or too low, there's a greater crash potential."
Premo acknowledged that there are some factors that could cause drivers to slow down, such as more development along the highway and narrower road lanes. One factor that does not help is the traffic signal, he added.
In some cases, the signal changing to yellow may cause drivers to speed up in order to catch the light before it turns red.
The signal in Quinnesec is programed to give 10 to 28 seconds of green on U.S. 2, seven to 19 seconds of green on Lake Antoine Road, and about five seconds of yellow on both.
As Olson pointed out, the green light duration on Lake Antoine Road does not always allow sufficient time to drive a semi truck completely through the intersection.
"I've been through a lot of different places, and this is a bad spot," he said.
Pedestrians cannot walk across the five-lane highway in that amount of time either, audience members added.
On the enforcement side, Celello said that he and his deputies do not have much flexibility with speed limits.
"We can't enforce anything lower than what the speed limit is," he said.
However, audience members felt that simply having a greater police presence in the area of U.S. 2 and Lake Antoine Road may make drivers more cautious.
Celello agreed, but noted that the decreased amount of troopers at the Iron Mountain post over the past several years makes it difficult for either the sheriff's department or the post to concentrate efforts on one specific area of the county.
Audience members also suggested using devices like red light cameras, radar signs that show passing motorists' speeds, and countdown signals that show how much time is left on a green light.
Celello pointed out that red light cameras cannot be used in Michigan. Premo was hesitant about the other two methods, as a radar sign could be too much of a distraction and a countdown signal, much like a yellow light, could influence drivers to speed up in order to catch the light before it turns.
On a related topic, Olson also wanted to touch on safety at railroad crossings in Quinnesec, particularly at Lake Street. The crossing is only marked by railroad crossing signs and not by any lights or other signals.
Harris informed the panel and audience that the MDOT rail division completed a study of the area last year and found that it did not require signalization. There was discussion about adding extra yield signs, however.
Rogina said that there is increased truck traffic on the road now that the Niagara Development Landfill has reopened and is accepting more types of waste. He suggested that the new conditions may warrant another study.
For his part, Premo said that he could look into making the green and red signals last longer at the U.S. 2 and Lake Antoine intersection for the sake of pedestrian crossings. He said that he could also consider a radar sign for the area, as long as it does not pose too much of a distraction for drivers.
After hearing from each of the panel members, Olson said that the township would follow up on all of the information given.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.