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Speed limit lowered on part of County Road I

The speed limit will be reduced to 45 mph on a one-mile segment of County Road I between Somerset and Burkhardt. The segment runs from the curve just north of County Road E north to Perch Lake Road. (Image by Imagery 2014 Google map data 2014 Google)

The speed limit on County Road I south of Somerset will be lowered to 45 miles per hour for a one-mile stretch beginning at the curve north of County Road E and extending north to Perch Lake Road.

The St. Croix County Transportation Committee voted to lower the limit at its Jan. 10 meeting in Hammond. The committee also voted to revisit the speed limits in that area one year after the St. Croix Crossing opens to see if they’re still pertinent.

St. Croix County Highway Commissioner Tim Ramberg said he hopes to have the new speed limit signs and warning flags up in the next week, but it may take up to a month.

According to Ramberg, the Highway Department has been getting numerous complaints about that stretch of road. Ramberg describes the one-mile segment as hilly.

“When the new bridge from Stillwater is built, that may reduce the traffic there,” Ramberg said. “But now there has been more and more traffic.”

Ramberg said the Highway Department worked with an engineering firm when setting the speed limit when the road was rebuilt.

“There’s a philosophy of setting speeds and road designs,” Ramberg said. “That stretch was on the bubble of being either 45 or 55. We used the philosophy of prevailing speed.”

Prevailing speed is the speed the majority of traffic is travelling at or below.

“At times, setting a speed limit at prevailing speed rather than design speeds can cause more accidents -- not all the time, but at times,” Ramberg said.

Ramberg said he is not aware of any recent accidents between County Road E and Perch Lake Road, but north of there on County Road I, accidents have occurred. He said he has heard many reports of close calls, speeding and passing on double yellow lines.

“We generally weigh very heavily what the local governing body wants,” Ramberg said.

He said many residents took their concerns to the Town of St. Joseph Town Board at the Dec. 5 meeting. Ramberg also attended and heard residents’ concerns about the speed limit.

Ramberg said he drove that stretch of road himself on Jan. 9, to take video and gather observations for the Transportation Committee meeting. He said just as he was turning onto 132nd Avenue from County Road I, a person passed him on a double yellow line.

“So I have experienced it myself,” Ramberg said. “And it was the middle of the day.”

Ramberg said they have also received requests to extend the double yellow lines. They cannot, however, due to federal regulations.

“By lowering the speed limit, it gives people more opportunity to pass, by default,” Ramberg said. “I’ve spoken to the Sheriff and he thinks 45 is logical.”

Ramberg said speeds should be set to move traffic along fluidly, but safely.

When the new speed limit signs go in, flags will be installed on them to alert drivers to the new reduced speed.
“The movement of the flags in the wind makes them easier for motorists to see,” Ramberg said.

Enforcement will be stepped up in the area as part of a media campaign to make motorists aware of the reduced speed, Ramberg said.