SWARTZ CREEK — Motorists will be able to drive a little bit faster on Seymour Road starting March 1.
It was only after considerable debate that the Swartz Creek City Council voted 4-3 to raise the speed limit to 30 miles per hour, up from 25 miles per hour.
The change comes on the heels of a traffic study that Metro Police Authority Traffic Safety Officer Blake Hiben conducted between Sept. 20 and Nov. 30.
Frequent travelers likely spotted the radar signs used to collect data near Chelmsford Drive and Oakview Drive during that time.
Hiben said he used five weeks’ worth of data to illustrate speed patterns in a report provided to the council just prior to the Monday, Jan. 25, meeting.
The data showed that more than 10,000 vehicles travel the stretch of Seymour Road between Miller and Hill roads every week. Most of them, about 58 percent, travel faster than the posted speed limit.
“The majority are going 26 to 35 miles per hour,” Hiben said.
However, the 85th percentile – which is one of the benchmarks used to determine speed limits – was at or below 33.4 mph.
Of greatest concern among the councilmembers who opposed the change was pedestrian safety.
“When I ran for city council the first time, I asked that question,” said Councilman Dennis Pinkston. “Those people who live along Seymour all thought 25 was good, because a lot of them have little kids. But when you question the people who pass through there, they think 30 is too low. They’re in a hurry to get from Miller to Grand Blanc Road.
“So, it depends on who you ask. But those little kids … and there’s a bunch of them who walk across Seymour at Oakview in the morning and afternoon. It’s scary, especially when they’re just little. You’re going to get people who think both ways. But, I understand why it’s 25, that’s for sure.”
Mayor Pro Tem Rae Lynn Hicks said the city should survey the Seymour Road residents and take their thoughts into consideration before making a change.
“They may not care, I don’t know,” she said. “But you need to let them know you’re going to do it and give them a chance to put their opinion in. We (a previous city council) changed it to 25 for a reason. It’s just a short span. Five miles per hour is not a big deal. But they deserve to be notified ahead of time and have the chance to say why they want to keep it or they don’t care.”
Councilman Nathan Henry also asked for more time to get feedback from residents.
“I’m on the council and I didn’t know we were considering this until Friday when we got the packet,” he said. “I would be in favor of putting this on the agenda for our next meeting. Give it time to be out there in the open and if people have comments they could (comment).”
City Manager Adam Zettel advised the council that he is “extraordinarily reluctant” to use public opinion over an objective, data-driven approach to decision making.
“What parameters do we want to consider?” he asked. “It should be relatively predictable and fair.”
One of the problems with Seymour Road is that it’s width and function make it seem like a higher-speed thoroughfare.
“The very wide roadway is conducive to higher speeds,” Zettel said.
In addition, it’s not a neighborhood side street; it’s a major road linking one end of the county to the other.”
“The road is kind of designed for something faster,” said Councilman Jentery Farmer.
In addition to the radar data, Hiben also reported that there were three crashes reported on that stretch in 2020. Speed was not reported to be a factor in any of them.
There were also 17 traffic citations issued, with 12 of them being for violations of the speed limit.