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Berrien County neighbors weigh in on speed limit law

ST. JOE CHARTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. - For the first time in years, some Berrien County residents will see the speed limit in front of their homes increase from 25 to 30 and even 40 miles per hour.

The law was actually changed in 2006 that got rid of the 25 mph speed limit on county roads like Jakway Avenue, but the Berrien County Road Department just decided to enforce it in the last couple of years.

Next week,drivers will be legally allowed to drive 40 miles per hour through certain St. Joe Charter Township roads.

“I walk with my one year old son every day, [and] I think that because we don’t have as wide a shoulder or sidewalks, it would be imperative to have a lower speed limit," said Kayla Johnson, who lives on Fairplain Avenue.

There's a little over two feet of a shoulder in some areas, which forces the Johnson family of three to walk partly in the road on their strolls.

That's one of the reasons they and many of their neighbors would prefer to see the speed limit stay at 25 mph, like their "awareness signs" request.

“Last week, we noticed all of the posts, the stakes going in, where the posts are going to be for the new 40 mile per hour speed limit," said Dan Roth, who lives on Jakway Avenue.

When the road department decided to enforce the decade-old law change, they used the 85% speed formula to determine the new speed limit for at least some of the 60 locations in the county that qualified, two of which are Fairplain Avenue and Jakway Avenue.

The Traffic Safety Supervisor said they did a study before taking down the 25 mph signs and after, and he says 85% of people in both cases naturally drove about 40 miles per hour along those roads.

That's why the new speed limit will become 40 next week.

“It’s really frustrating...I mean this is where we live, we want to be able to say how fast people should go in our neighborhood," said Jonathan Johnson.

“If they’ve heard all the concerns from the citizens, that’s what they should be listening to, and they need to come up with a compromise. The most important thing is protecting people. If there are a lot of children at homes playing, maybe they should look at lowering the speed, I don’t know what harm that’s going to cause," said State Representative Kim LaSata, in a phone conversation.

Many neighbors feel the harm could come if those in charge don't listen.

“When a child gets hit, maybe they’ll start to do something, but it’s a little late, so whenever the law wants to do something, it’s always after a tragedy. We all know that. We’re trying to stop that tragedy," said Roth.

The new road signs are slated to be installed next week.

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