Drivers on I-496 get the green light to go 70 - Stretch of U.S. 127 in Frandor area sees higher speed limits as well

10:11 AM, Apr 3, 2007   |    comments
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No, you weren't dreaming on your Monday commute. And no, those brand new 70 mph speed limit signs on Interstate 496 are not a mistake. The speed limit on all of Interstate 496 is now 70 mph after a speed limit hike came into effect Monday. Advertisement Most of I-496 near downtown Lansing had a speed limit of 55 mph before the change. Signs along U.S. 127 in the Frandor area also went up Monday with the 70 mph limit. The reason for the change? According to the Michigan Department of Transportation, it's because most people weren't following the posted speed limit anyway. Motorists know that. "Fifty-five is too slow to go through there. Not too many people slow down," said Fernando Alaniz of Lansing, who gets on I-496 a few times each week. "Now, we don't have to worry." To be specific, about 7 percent of drivers were following the posted speed limit, according to state police statistics. "People tend to follow realistic speeds as opposed to unrealistic speeds," said Bill Shreck, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transportation. The general theory behind speed limit changes is called the 85th percentile speed. Essentially, it's the idea that speed limits should be set such that 85 percent of people will follow them. To find that number, the state police and Department of Transportation looked at how fast 85 percent of drivers were going. "It was about 73 (mph) in the outlying areas, about 68 in the city," said Lt. Thad Peterson, who runs the Traffic Services Section for the State Police. Officials expect speeds downtown likely will not rise much, possibly one or two miles per hour. Shreck said MDOT, the State Police and City of Lansing all signed off on the speed limit increase. But in 2005, when the idea was first raised, the Lansing Police Department was anything but on board with the change. "Our concern was the people coming off the exits," said city police Lt. Bruce Ferguson. "We wanted to see the studies. They answered all of our concerns." And for drivers such as Ashley Herrick of Lansing, the change is welcome and practical. "It's quicker," said Ashley Herrick of Lansing, who drives part of the stretch nearly every day. "To slow down to 55, it does hold people up. And I think people speed through there." Staff writer Nicole Geary contributed to this report. Contact Derek Wallbank at 267-1301 or dwallbank@lsj.com.

By Derek Wallbank Lansing State Journal

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