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Speed limit signs slowly take root on county roads

Harrison County has in its care some 829 miles of roads and most of those have no posted speed limit, but that’s something that Harrison County Engineer Kevin Russel is changing one road at a time.
‘We’ve had a lot of calls from people who would like to see us post speed limits,’ he said, adding, many of Harrison County’s roads have been improved in recent years and ‘road improvements are usually accompanied by concerns about higher rates of travel.’
Russel inherited the task from his predecessor, Darin Duncan, who was given the green light from the Harrison County Commissioners to begin setting speed limits.
Advertised in The Corydon Democrat this week are ordinances establishing speed limits for Circle Road, Cooks Mill Road, German Ridge Road, Gettelfinger Road, North Bradford Road, Oak Park Road, Crandall-Lanesville Road, Payton Road, Pumping Station Road, Lickford Bridge Road, Morgans Lane, Heth-Washington Road, Hillcrest Drive and New Amsterdam Road.
‘It’s kind of a big job, but it doesn’t get done if you never start,’ Russel said.
Between 20 and 30 county roads now have posted speed limits, Russel said.
Once Russel’s job is done, the Harrison County Commissioners have the final say on speeds. They sign off on every ordinance creating a speed limit on Harrison County roads.
Far from an arbitrary decision, the Federal Highway Administration sets the guidelines for establishing traffic controls, including speed limits.
According to the hefty ‘Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices,’ speed limits, when posted, should be within five mph of the 85th-percentile speed of free-flowing traffic or the speed at which 85 percent of traffic will be traveling at or below on a roadway.
All public roadways, even those without signs, have a speed limit. While this is usually 55 mph by default, statute provides that drivers may not travel at speeds which are hazardous for road conditions. In other words, law enforcement may use its judgment in determining what speed is excessive.
The vagueness of the law can also complicate enforcement, Russel said.
Other factors the manual suggests considering when determining a speed limit include road characteristics like shoulder condition, grade, alignment and sight distance; roadside development and environment; parking practices and pedestrian activity; and reported crash experience for at least 12 months.
Russel gave The Corydon Democrat the results of several speeds reports collected by his office. The reports indicate that most Harrison County drivers exceed 55 mph unless road conditions inhibit speeding.
On North Bradford Road, the 85th-percentile speed was 60.79 mph. Two drivers were clocked in excess of 80 mph on March 22 and 23 when the data was collected.
The ordinance advertised for North Bradford Road from U.S. 150 to Bradford Road would limit the lawful speed to 45 mph.
Circle Road, with hills and sharp curves, hosted more modest speeds. The 85th-percentile speed there was 42.34 mph with no drivers clocked at speeds of 50 mph or greater on May 1 and 2 when data was collected.
The ordinance being advertised for Circle Road is for 35 mph.
Russel doesn’t recall ever recommending a speed limit be set above the 85th-percentile speed. And when the process is complete, he said it’s typical that the speed limits are set below the benchmark.
Other reports provided by Russel gave 85th-percentile speeds for Lickford Bridge Road, 58.48 mph; Morgans Lane, 55.63; and New Middletown Road, 58.6 on the days tested.
The ordinances for Lickford Bridge Road and Morgans Lane are both advertised with limits of 40 mph and lower in some areas.
Coming before the commissioners during the next two months will be New Middletown Road, a section of Crandall-Lanesville Road and the last portion of Tee Road, Russel said.
Roads examined have been chosen in part as a result of requests by the public, but the focus so far is on highly-traveled connector roads.

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