By Dennis Volkert
Sturgis City Commission on Wednesday voted to approve establishment of a 45 mph speed limit on East Lafayette Street, from Lakeview Avenue to Franks Avenue, and 25 mph when school is in session.
Barry Cox, city engineer, provided details to commissioners.
A traffic-speed study was conducted Aug. 1-8 to evaluate vehicle speed within the segment. The speed of the 1,158 vehicles per day traveling eastbound and westbound on East Lafayette was recorded.
The 750 (64.8%) eastbound vehicles had an 85th percentile speed of 44.4 mph and the 408 (35.2%) westbound vehicles had an 85th percentile speed of 48 mph.
Testing was conducted after opening of the traffic roundabout at intersection of Lafayette and Franks, Cox said.
Currently, the segment does not have speed-limit signage, with exception of the 25-mph school zone.
Cox urged establishment of the limit as soon as possible.
“I’m not saying this that is going to be forever, we can re-evaluate at some point, and I plan to do so,” Cox said.
Some residents on the street suggested setting the threshold at 25 mph, but that is unrealistic, Cox told commissioners.
Commissioner Marvin Smith asked if it’s possible to “split the difference” between the limit set by the analysis and residential requests. Cox said the process does not work that way.
Work to install new speed limit signs and posts will be performed by Department of Public Services. Cost would come from a fund for routine maintenance of local streets.
In 2006, the state legislature changed the way speed limits are designated. Numerical speed limits may be “absolute,” such as statewide 70 and 55 mph. Limits modified from those standards are done so by a traffic control order, or TCO.
In 2009, Sturgis Department of Public Safety and the engineering department undertook a process of revising speed limits in the city. Those were approved by the city commission in 2010. At that time, East Lafayette Street was under jurisdiction of St. Joseph County Road Commission. In 2022, it changed to city of Sturgis. When that occurred, the street segment was designated as 55 mph.
Absolute limit, more commonly called “posted” limit, is based on a worst‐case scenario situation and may be challenged if typical conditions that warrant it are not present. Conversely, absolute speed limits are best-case scenario limits when properly set, the city said.