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. 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.
Therefore, a second hearing was held January 28th for Morrison Lane, Oberhelman Road, and Sneak Road; and a first hearing was held that evening on Foristell Road. A second hearing for Foristell Road only will be held February 11th.
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.
At the January 7th meeting, 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.
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. (By the end of the second hearing, over 90 signatures of area residents had been collected in opposition.) 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.
At the January 28th meeting, Wrenn stated she had obtained a copy of the traffic study from St. Charles County and asserted it showed that approximately 55% of drivers were currently exceeding 45 mph. She again challenged the 85% methodology used by the county, arguing that is an outdated method and that there are better and more sophisticated technologies available to determine recommended speed limits.
Editor’s Note: As a resident who frequently travels Foristell Road and Morrison Lane, I also spoke in opposition on January 7th. While I agree that 40-45 mph is a comfortable speed for driving, I am concerned about those who are traveling over 45 mph already. 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, some people will assume they can go 55 mph; which is too fast. The lines of sight looking at the intersections of Oberhelman and Sneak Road, Oberhelman and Foristell Road, Holt Road 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, school buses, bicyclists, and pedestrians that might be in a driver’s path as they top a hill or round a corner.
On the 28th, several other people spoke in opposition. Chris Cuddihee lives on Oberhelman Road. He is a Fire Marshall for the Wentzville Fire Protection District, and a volunteer for New Melle Fire Protection District. He spoke strongly against the proposal for safety reasons...increased volume of cars going excessive speeds, accidents in the area that he has worked, the hilly terrain providing inadequate stopping distance for school buses, livestock in the area that, yes, does escape from time to time and get on county roads. and more.
Karen Wilson, a dedicated bicyclist in the area told how she had been forced off the road and into a ditch multiple times by speeding drivers.
Once that hearing is complete, the county highway department will take another look at the roads, then make a recommendation to the Council. If the recommendation is to raise the speed limit, an ordinance would come before the council for a vote – most likely in early March.