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Council curbs Miller Road speed limits

But some say island motorists will still drive as fast as they want.

Miller Road residents say they’ll soon be feeling a little safer in their neighborhood after new 35 mile per hour speed limit signs go up this month.

The City Council approved a speed reduction along the three-mile, west island thoroughfare, dropping all speeds to 35 miles per hour. Some portions of the road are presently posted at 40 mph and will be lowered before May.

Councilman Bill Knobloch, strong supporter of the measure, urged the council to support reducing the road’s speed as a vital safety measure.

“Who on the council wants to take responsibility for the first loss of life on that road because we failed to lower the speed limit?” he asked.

The council voted 4-2 for the reduction, with Nezam Tooloee, Christine Rolfes and Deborah Vann joining Knobloch in support. Jim Llewellyn and Bob Scales opposed the change, and Debbie Vancil was absent.

Those opposed said the measure amounted to a band-aid approach to an island-wide wound.

“When you make public policy it should not be by a case-by-case basis,” said Llewellyn, who maintains a commercial property on Miller Road. “I’m also concerned about safety on Miller Road, but dealing with it in isolation is bad public policy.”

The speed reduction came after a year-long lobbying effort by Miller Road residents, which included a petition signed by over 260 islanders in support of reducing the road’s speed.

“I drive on Miller everyday and it’s very scary,” said Lisa Weiss. “I’ve seen two accidents and I now carry a blanket in my car to help, just in case.”

She and many other residents advocated additional safety improvements, including a four-way stop on Miller’s intersection with Koura Road, known for its limited visibility and the site of a recent collision between a Danish couple and a police patrol car.

Over 60 percent of residents who signed the petition supported dropping Miller’s speed to 30 mph, according to members of the Miller Road Neighborhood Safety Committee.

But not all frequent users of Miller advocated the speed change.

“You’ll just make a big speed trap on the island with more people violating the law,” said Greg Anderson. “I don’t think a lower speed limit is going to create any more safety – you need to change the road.”

Once posted at 50 mph, according to some long-time residents, Miller’s speed was cut to 35 and 40 mph after earlier outcries from residents. Some said drivers will continue to travel at speeds in which they feel comfortable.

“It was designed to be safe at 50 miles an hour when it was built,” Dan Taylor said. “So we’re definitely going to have people breaking the limit, and that doesn’t solve the problem.”

Llewellyn advocated other measures to improve safety, including more stop signs, clearing vegetation that blocks vision and rumble strips on the roadsides.

“We need things that make you wake up and say, ‘Dude, there’s a stop sign ahead.’” he said, adding that the 5-mph reduction will likely be as effective as island helmet laws. Llewellyn said he’s witnessed plenty of skateboarders at Strawberry Hill Park without head protection.

“Enforcement there is kind of a joke,” he said. “This may not be any more enforceable than the helmet law.”

Councilman Bob Scales asked what the reduction on Miller means for other island residents concerned about speeds in their neighborhoods.

“What do I tell other residents in my neighborhood?” he asked referring to similar concerns expressed on Sunrise Drive, North Madison Avenue and Torvanger Road. “What do they need to do to make a change? Get a petition, call the council? We need to try and get criteria.”

Most councilors said they’d like to see action on an island-wide speed reduction.

Councilman Nezam Tooloee, who expressed opposition to the measure, eventually voted in favor of it. He called the reduction the start of what he hopes will lead to speed reductions, stop signs and other safety improvements in other, more accident-prone, areas.

“I support this as a first step, but (as) a completely inadequate first step,” he said. “It does nothing more than make people feel good.”

While calling the Miller Road measure “a band-aid approach for one problem,” Rolfes said she’s glad the speed limit near her home on Oddfellows Road is 25 mph, even though some would like to drive at 50 mph.

“I like to fly in my car – everybody does,” she said. “But I thank God every day it’s 25 and not 50 on my road – for my kids, my chickens and my goats.”

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