May 5 2009 12:00 AM

Apparently the Capitol Loop is not the only route on which the city of Lansing may be out of compliance on speed limits. All state routes may be affected.

Lansing City Attorney Brigham Smith will likely recommend to the City Council Public Safety Committee today to adopt the state Motor Vehicle Code, which might raise speed limits on some local state-controlled streets.

Several state roads in the city of Lansing have incorrectly posted speed limits based on the state’s Motor Vehicle Code, which was revised in 2006. But since the city has not conducted traffic studies on the state roads, the streets default to a 55 MPH speed limit. And state law trumps local law, says the state.

However, the 2006 revisions were not made mandatory for local governments. Lansing didnt adopt the revisions, Smith said, because it has its own code.

The streets that may be affected by the possible change include all the state roads in Lansing: the Capitol Loop — Ottawa Street, Allegan Street, Capitol Avenue and a part of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard — Cedar Street, Grand River Avenue, Saginaw Street, Pine and Walnut streets from Interstate 496 into downtown Lansing, St. Joseph Street, Main Street and Homer Street.

As for how fast you can drive on state routes in Lansing, the city’s position is the posted limits are legal, while a state official says at least some may not be.

Smith’s recommendation that the city adopt the states Motor Vehicle Code is to avoid problems and costs associated with constantly checking whether the citys code is in line with state law, he said. (The city drafted its own traffic regulations in 1987 rather than adopt the Motor Vehicle Code or the Uniform Traffic Code.)

While it is up to municipalities whether to draft a traffic code, adopt the states, or adopt the Uniform Traffic Code (which was drafted by an independent consortium) cities can still be in violation of state regulations, state police 1st Lt. Brad Peterson of the Traffic Safety Division said. "

State statute supersedes local ordinances when they are in conflict with state statutes," he said, and when that conflict arises, the local ordinances "cant be considered to have regulatory effect."

Peterson said he was aware that there
are portions of state-controlled city streets that are not in
compliance with the Motor Vehicle Code and need to be brought into
compliance, but declined to divulge the streets at issue.

have heard that there are streets that may need to be checked and
measured and have engineering and traffic investigations to make sure
that they are posted correctly," he said.

Thats in stark contrast to
the position of city officials.

The citys transportation
engineer, Andy Kilpatrick, said that as far as the city is aware there
are no city streets — as opposed to state thoroughfares — out of
compliance with state statutes, referring to the fact that the city has
its own traffic code, which would seem to exempt it from adopting the
2006 revisions.

"The 2006 revisions do not affect our
streets," he said, but the city will begin the process of reviewing its
speed limits in the next few weeks as it typically does every five to six years.

Additionally, he said any problems with speed limits or signage are confined to MDOT roads in the city, as far as he is aware.

Pulse reported March 25 that the Capitol Loop should have posted speed
limits of 55 MPH because traffic studies that would determine correct
speed limits havent been done yet. Under the Motor Vehicle Code, roads
that are not in a residential or business district need a traffic study
to determine the speed limit. The Capitol Loop hasn’t been studied, and
until it is, the speed limit defaults to 55 MPH.

Under the Motor
Vehicle Code, in order to avoid conducting costly traffic studies for
every street in the city, there are two broad categories for which
default speed limits are set: platted subdivisions and business
districts. Most of the residential streets in Lansing fall under the
"platted subdivision" exemption, Smith said, but streets that were
neither platted subdivision exemptions nor business district exemptions
would need a traffic study or the number of access points (driveways, intersections, etc) along a halfmile stretch counted to determine the correct speed.

course, thats how it works under the states code, not the citys, and
up until last week, the opinion of the city has been that it might be
nice to streamline operations and adopt the states code, but if not,
it really didnt matter.

However, with Petersons assessment
that the citys ordinances cannot be at odds with the states statutes,
that seems to be incorrect.

Delta Township resident Pat
Cavanaugh, who fought a ticket when he was pulled over for speeding on
Cedar Street, first brought the problem to light when he discovered the
state-owned streets werent in compliance with state statute. Now, he
says, there are city-owned streets violating the state statute, and, as
Peterson pointed out, that means the city has to come into compliance
with the state.

Cavanaugh has also taken issue with the
spacing of speed limit signs in the city. He says that the stretch
between Kalamazoo Street and Mt. Hope Avenue along Pennsylvania Avenue is the worst.

signage should not be a problem, Smith said, because the city’s
independent code or the state’s Motor Vehicle Code doesn’t govern the
placement of signs. Instead, the “Michigan Manual on Uniform
Traffic Control Devices” regulates all signs for traffic.

"We follow
the Michigan manual and are in compliance with it, because our traffic
code references the Michigan manual," he said.

In the meantime, Smith
said his office is in the process of studying exactly how those 2006
revisions to the states motor vehicle code impact the city in light of
its traffic code.

Asked if he agreed with the state police that the
citys ordinances were in violation of state statute, Smith said, "I
respect what the state police are saying, but it is my job as the city
attorney to make that independent assessment."