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W. South St. Speed Limits

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

W. South St. Speed Limits

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
May 30, 2009

Earlier this year residents of the Serenity Creek subdivision approached the City of Woodstock to request that the speed limit be lowered on South Street, because they were having difficulty exiting Serenity Creek. The posted speed limit is currently 45MPH.

Changing a speed limit on a City street is no easy task. First you have to wave a flag and get the City's attention. That done, then the City begins its "process" for determining whether a speed limit ought to be changed.

According to a report going to the City Council on June 2, the Illinois Vehicle Code requires that a "speed and traffic study" be conducted. The Police Department conducted "speed studies" (more on this later) on six dates in March and April, and Public Works received a copy of all reported accidents along South Street for the past three years, although the report doesn't mention the number of accidents.

Based on that study, Public Works recommends no change in the 45MPH speed limit.

However, it was discovered that, when jurisdiction over West South Street from Tara Drive to the west City Limit was transferred a few years ago from the McHenry County Highway Department to the City, the City Code was never changed to include the segment of South Street west of Tara Drive. On June 2 the City Council will remedy that by voting on an ordinance to establish a 45MPH speed limit on West South Street from the westerly intersection of South Street and Duvall Drive west to Serenity Drive.

So, what does all this mean?

You won't see any new 45MPH speed limit signs; they are already there. And the residents in Serenity Creek will still take their lives in their hands, when they try to get out of their subdivision onto South Street.

As I understand a "speed study", it is not to determine what a speed limit ought to be. A speed study measures the speeds of traffic. So, if everyone is flying along, even at unsafe speeds and possibly in excess of posted limits, that becomes the "norm" and the speed limit gets set at the 85th percentile of speeds measured during the "study".

And this raises another question. Did you get a ticket for speeding on West South Street out near the City Limit? If you did get a ticket after the date when Woodstock received jurisdiction (date not mentioned in the Public Works report but available from City Hall), then was that ticket valid? Probably not.

The whole issue of enforcement probably becomes quite murky. If the City had never established a speed limit for a section of roadway in the City, what would the speed limit really be there? It could be worse for the speeder, because perhaps the statutory speed limit (30MPH) could apply, making the violation worse. Or, if it looked like "open road" there, then the statute for 55MPH could apply. But it's within City Limits, so it might not.

Are there other roads in Woodstock with this same situation? Possibly the eastern stretch of McConnell Road near Lily Pond Road, where there is no posting of speed limits in either direction?

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