Summit County Some speed-limit signs in local neighborhoods could start to disappear, as county officials move to reduce the overall number of signs.
"What we're proposing to do is eliminate 150 speed-limit signs and replace them with 50 others that say, "unless otherwise posted," county engineer Rick Pocius said at a county commissioner work session last week.
The change would apply only to unincorporated areas of the county, not the towns.
Under state statute, the speed limit in residential areas is 30 mph, unless otherwise posted. Alternate speeds must be supported by an engineering study, Pocius explained.
"We've got speed-limit signs from 10 to 30 mph scattered all over," Pocius said. "As an example, in Summit Cove, there are 34 speed-limit signs." They could be replaced with three or four signs, resulting in a long-term cost savings for the county, Pocius said.
The move partly is driven by a state law that requires updated signs to meet visibility standards. The new signs are expensive. Maintaining the existing signs also requires manpower and money. Overall, the county could save about $5,000, Pocius said.
Commissioners anticipated some criticism, or at least questions, from residents.
"Can we legally prohibit maternal comment," commissioner Bob French joked, expecting to get an earful from concerned moms. "It seems to me there are a lot of residential areas where people have said they don't want cars coming through at 30 mph."
That may be true, but Pocius explained again that posting speed limits less than the state-mandated 30 mph must be supported by evidence showing why the lower limit is needed.
"We will get calls," said commissioner Thomas Davidson. "Way back when, speed-limit signs were handed out as favors to people who called and said: "Do something, Mr. County Commissioner. With all due respect, that's not the way to put up speed-limit signs," Davidson said.
Pocius said that, although there is a perception of widespread speeding in neighborhoods such as Summit Cove, traffic studies show otherwise. The small percentage of speeders aren't deterred by speed limit signs, he said.
Sheriff John Minor said he disagrees with the commissioners.
"I don't think we should reduce the number of signs," Minor said. "I can only imagine the uproar. Some of the neighborhood streets in question are narrow, with lots of kids playing outside," said Minor, who happens to live in Summit Cove.
Even if there haven't been specific engineering studies, residents have said in the past that the lower speed limits on their streets are a common sense approach to keeping their kids safe.
The plan for now is to remove the older signs as they get old and faded. Some of them simply won't be replaced, while other signs will be updated with the "unless otherwise posted" message, county officials said.