By Dianne Sudbrock
On Monday, January 7, 2019 there was a public hearing before the St. Charles County Council regarding a request to raise the speed limits on four New Melle area roads, Foristell Road, Morrison Lane, Oberhelman Road and Sneak Road. The hearing was held as part of the regularly scheduled St. Charles County Council meeting.
At the beginning of the hearing, county staff reported that a new hearing notice would be posted for Foristell Road because the description of the affected portion of that road was incorrect on the original hearing notice. A new notice can be expected for the January 28th meeting.
The proposal calls for raising the speed limit from 35 mph to 45 mph on:
- Foristell Road from the western [New Melle] city limits to Hwy. T;
- Morrison Lane from Foristell Road to Hwy. N; and
- Sneak Road from Oberhelman Road to Hwy. T.
The proposal also calls for raising the speed limit from 35 mph to 40 mph on Oberhelman Road from Sneak Road to Foristell Road.
County Councilman Joe Brazil said the request came from some area residents who had complained over the years that the speed limit was too low. Brazil said he asked the County Highway Department to study the roads, and the County Engineers agreed the roads could handle the proposed increases. Since the public notice was posted, Councilman Brazil said the county had received several letters/emails on the topic.
Craig Tajkowski, St. Charles County Highway Engineer, explained that a traffic study indicated that about 85% of drivers currently drive between 40-45 mph despite the 35 mph speed limit, and approximately 15% (or actually a little more than that, he said) drive over 45 mph. Tajkowski said posting the speed limit at 35 mph when nearly everyone is driving 45 just turns everyone into a bunch of law breakers. "People should not be ticketed for something that is safe to do." He added that the county would put placards in some locations and warning signs in some locations due to hills, etc.
Don Meyer and Steve Burt, both of the New Melle area, spoke in favor of the proposal. Burt said he agreed with the study that the roads could handle the 45 mph limit and that the lower speed limit unnecessarily turned people into lawbreakers.
Meyer said "Change is constant" and said he thought the 45 mph was reasonable and appropriate. He said the roads serve as feeder roads to state highways and that the speed limit should be adjusted and adapted for current use.
Two other people spoke in opposition. Sabrina Wrenn presented a petition containing signatures from 21 people who live along Morrison Lane, stating they were opposed to the proposed increase for safety concerns and the type of traffic that uses that road. Wrenn said, "It is ridiculous to rely on a study that shows 85% of drivers are speeding. Any engineer worth his salt also considers how the road is used." There are horse trailers and other agricultural equipment that use the road, plus pedestrians/runners and bicyclists.
As a resident who frequently travels Foristell Road and Morrison Lane, I also spoke in opposition. While I agree that 40-45 mph is a comfortable speed for driving, I am concerned about the 15%+ who are currently traveling over 45 mph already. Will they go even faster? I think most of us assume we have a "cushion" of 5-10 mph over the posted speed limit before we worry too much about getting a speeding ticket. If the posted limit is 45 mph, will some people assume they can go 55 mph? If so, that's too fast for the conditions. The lines of sight looking west from the intersections of Oberhelman and Sneak Road, Oberhelman and Foristell Road, and Morrison Lane and Foristell Road are all limited. I am also concerned about farm traffic. The lack of shoulders and deep ditches leave little room to navigate around farm equipment that might suddenly be in a driver's path as they top a hill or round a corner. I suggested that if the Council was determined to raise the limit perhaps a 40 mph limit instead of 45 mph would be more appropriate.