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35mph W. South St. Speed Limit?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

35mph W. South St. Speed Limit?

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
June 28, 2009

I'm glad I wasn't at the June 2nd City Council meeting. I would have torn the rest of my hair out in exasperation at their deliberations about reducing the speed limit on West South Street at the west City Limit, from the entrance to Serenity Creek inbound to Duvall Street. One or more residents approached Councilwoman Julie Dillon to request that the speed limit on South Street be lowered to 35mph.

The speed limit there is 45mph. Yesterday I rode down there to check out the number of houses in Serenity Creek and the sight distance for drivers at the intersection of Serene Trail and West South Street. Then I re-read the Minutes of the June 2nd City Council meeting. Before that meeting I had read the packet that had been sent to the Council before the meeting.

First of all, there seem to be very few residents in the Serenity Creek development. Most of the houses appeared to be vacant; i.e., still for sale. It's a short, curving street that dead-ends in a cul-de-sac.

When a driver stops at the stop sign, he has adequate sight distance in both directions. It could be that he might have to wait a few seconds for a gap in traffic; for example, during morning or afternoon "rush hour." So what?

Public Works Director John Isbell explained to the Council, according to the June 2 Minutes, that "The Illinois Vehicle Code said the speed limit must be reduced in 10mph increments. The City will not be able to reduce the speed limit from 55mph to 35mph."

What he didn't tell them is that the City can reduce the speed limit more than 10mph, if approaching drivers are given warning of the reduction. You can't just spring a 20mph drop on them with a standard-size 35mph speed limit sign (Hello - "speed trap"). If a standard regulatory sign reading "Reduced Speed Ahead" with a smaller "35mph" sign below it is posted in advance of the 35mph speed zone, then a speed limit can be reduced more than 10mph. I believe this is called an "altered speed zone" or something like that, according to a past conversation I had with an IDOT sign shop employee.

That small bit of information might have saved the Council a lot of time.

A reduction to 35mph would be unreasonable. The Council directed the City staff to contact McHenry County about reducing the speed limit in the County, outside Woodstock, from 55mph to 50mph, so that the City can lower the speed limit from 45mph to 40mph. Why waste all that time and effort, when the City could ask the County merely to post a sign meeting the altered-speed-zone condition for a 40mph zone?

Or, better yet, why not "Just say No" to any change? Maybe the Council's advice to Serenity Creek residents should be "Be patient. Be careful."

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