Saline Lowers Speed Limit During School Commute Hours on Woodland Drive, Enhanced Crosswalks Next

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A portion of Woodland Drive will see its speed limit fall from 30 to 25 miles per hour on school days.

Monday evening, at the request of Saline Area Schools officials, Saline City Council voted 7-0 to approve Police Chief Jerrod Hart's traffic order 2428, which creates a "school zone" on Woodland Drive, in front of Heritage and Woodland Meadows elementary schools, from 7:51-8:51 a.m. and 3:44-3:44 p.m.

Saline Area Schools Superintendent Steve Laatsch formally requested the school zone in a letter to the city and its police department dated Nov. 30.

Chief Hart said the traffic control order was "part of a larger much broader discussion about safety along Woodland." Other possible remedies include crossing guards, increased signalization and line-markings.

During public comment, three people, including Board of Education Vice President Michael McVey and Secretary Susan Estep, spoke in favor of the school zone. McVey also requested a permanent speed sign, which tells people how fast they are driving, and an enhanced crosswalk with repainted markings.

McVey said from his home office he has a good view of the pedestrian crossing from Wildwood Trail over Woodland Drive.

"My heart stops a little every time I see flashing lights outside my window because I know is the area I see young children cross on their way to and from school each day," McVey told council.

Justin Teems, of Chestnut Crescent, said he's been vocal on the issue and sent many emails to affect change and have existing traffic laws enforced.

He noted that the district is now a "walking district" not served by school buses.

Estep said she appreciated the steps the city is taking to protect children in the district.

"In addition to reducing the speed limit, I also believe there should be flashing lights to notify people coming up on the crosswalk. I've noticed children going out (into the road) and quickly running back because they realize the vehicle is coming straight at them. It scares me," Estep said.

Estep said he's noticed police presence, which has helped, but believes the road needs crossing guards and crosswalks.

In his memo to council, Hart noted that staffing issues forced the SPD to reduce the number of crossing guards from 8 to 5. At the same time, staffing issues have forced the school district to cancel bus routes and expand walking zones. Hart had his officers conduct speed enforcement on Woodland Drive between Maple Road and Ann Arbor Street during the week of Dec. 6. Officers made 35 traffic stops and issued eight citations and 27 warnings. Many of those who were stopped were employees of the school district or residents of surrounding subdivisions.

Speaking to council, Hart said he walked around 15 miles around the community and noticed the city lacked proper striping in the roadways for crossing guards and intersections. He said he planned to work with DPW Director Larry Sirls on a plan to solve the striping issue.

Hart said he's talking to the DPW about increased signage at the crosswalk.

Hart called the school zone speed reduction "pretty straight forward" and just "the beginning of the process."

Mayor Brian Marl said he believed there was money in this year's budget to enhance the crosswalk. City Manager Colleen O'Toole confirmed.

"We have $15,000 in this year's budget and (DPW) Foreman (Ryan) Marion has priced out and received quotes.

"We'll actually be upgrading, not only this crossing, but removing the inroad LEDs and changing to a push-button, LED flashing sign at the nearby crossing, so both of those crossings are similar on Woodland Drive."

Answering a question from Councillor Dawn Krause, Chief Hart said police will maintain a presence along Woodland but noted the city has many issues at rush hour.

"We do our very best to be out there," Hart said.

Hart said the department needs at least two more crossing guards. He noted there was a crossing guard further east at North Ann Arbor Street.

Councillor Jack Ceo said he's seen Chief Hart staffing the school cross points. 

"It shows how much he regards the importance of these duties for the department itself," Ceo said.

Councillor Janet Dillon said her only concern with passing the school zone was creating a false sense of security by reducing the speed limit.

Councillor Dean Girbach asked if there were plans for flashing crosswalks on South Ann Arbor Street and Maple Road.

"It always is a concern when the squeaky wheel gets the most and we need to make sure we're looking out for the other areas," Girbach said.

The motion for the school zone traffic order was made by Councillor Ceo and seconded by Councillor Krause and passed by unanimous vote.

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