By Michael Fitzpatrick
Motorists who want to drive 35 miles per hour while traveling along the stretch of Lear Nagle Road currently under construction can do so without fear of getting a speeding ticket, at least for the time being.
The city announced in March, citing safety concerns, that it was lowering the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph along the stretch of road that runs from Center Ridge Road to Lorain Road and is currently being widened from two to three lanes. However, the city reversed itself last week after being notified by the Ohio Department of Transportation that the city did not have the authority to change the speed limit without first receiving ODOT approval.
According to Joyce Miller, a spokesperson for ODOT’s District 3 (which includes Lorain County), the city did not follow the necessary steps it needed to in order to have the speed limit on the road temporarily reduced.
City Council must first pass a resolution asking that the speed be reduced from 35 mph to 25 mph due to safety concerns, and then send that resolution to the director of ODOT, who must approve what’s known as a “safe prima-facie speed limit,” according to Ohio Revised Code 4521.11 (1).
Crews currently working on the road are in close proximity to passing vehicles, and city officials wanted to reduce the chances of any accidents occurring, thus hatching the idea to reduce speed along the road.
The city has already put up signs indicating the speed limit is 25 mph, but until it gets final approval from ODOT it cannot enforce the 25 mph speed limit, Mayor Dave Gillock said.
“According to ODOT, regardless of the signs, we cannot legally ticket for less than 35 mph unless we pass a resolution. We are working on the legislation now,” Gillock said.
And for now the city has no intention of taking down the 25 mph signs it posted along the portion of Lear Nagle in question, Gillock added.
“The signs can stay up forever, we just can’t enforce them,” Gillock said in an e-mail. “They will still slow traffic down until we can make the change.”
When the construction project is completed, the city must reinstate the 35 mph speed limit, according to Miller. If the city wanted to permanently change the speed limit to 25 mph, it would again have council pass a resolution as well as pay for a traffic an engineering study that would support that the speed limit should be lowered, according to Miller.
The topic of the speed limit came up during the April 4 council meeting when residents who live along a portion of Lear Nagle not affected by the current construction came to the council meeting to complain about safety conditions. The residents, all of whom live in the area of Lear Nagle and Rose Street (near Lear North Elementary School), have been voicing concerns about safety in that area since two stop signs were removed late last summer. The residents are of the opinion that when the city took down the stop signs at a three-way stop at the intersection at Lear Nagle and Rose, it created a safety hazard, which led to an increase in accidents and speeding.
When Angie Harrison, a resident who lives near the intersection, asked at the April 4 council meeting if the city could lower the speed limit in that area, Gillock revealed that ODOT had ruled the city could not lower the speeds in the construction zone.
“Lear Nagle is on the federal highway list and therefore ODOT controls the speed limit,” Gillock said. It’s also designated as a through street, Gillock continued, which means, according to Ohio revised code, the speed limit must be 35 mph. On April 9 a car ran off the portion of road and smashed into a water hydrant just north of the intersection where the stop signs had been removed, Harrison said. She indicated that’s just another example of how unsafe the area has become for motorists and residents.
Gillock said he forwarded an e-mail to ODOT he received from Harrison asking to possibly reduce the speed along the portion of Lear Nagle where she lives.
“We’re going to ask them to take a look at it and consider lowering it to 25,” Gillock said.
Council Member Terry Keenan said he’s driven the portion of Lear Nagle near Rose and is also of the opinion the speed along that stretch should be lowered to 25 mph.
“I don’t understand the speed limit on that road. That is just such a narrow road with narrow setbacks, no curbs … I don’t understand the speed limit,” Keenan said.