Public Safety Officials in Whiting Discuss Options for HH
County Highway HH is 25 mph in residental areas of Whiting. (City-Times photo)
By Sara Marls
Officials in the Village of Whiting say they’ve been asked to consider options to improved safety along County Highway HH.
“One resident came in and suggested a median down the center, and you’d have one lane going in each direction,” said Public Safety Committee Chairman Steve Orlinkowski. “She felt that would reduce the speed, because everybody thinks that’s a wide-open space where people tend to drive faster. But that being a county highway, it’s out of our hands for the most part.”
Board Member Kevin Lutz pointed out the village’s 1,780 residents couldn’t carry the full weight of the bill for extensive roadway work even if the plan were realistic, nor was he sure they’d want do.
“I’ve asked Chief Deputy (Dan) Kontos to increase patrols there, and I think he has, and I just don’t know what else we can do there,” Lutz said.
County Highway HH is largely located inside the village, but is owned and maintained by Portage County. The village pays the county to plow snow, shave snowbanks and update the road surface.
Whiting resident Reid Rouchealou suggested increasing the speed limit, arguing most drivers were responsible and drove at safe speeds.
“It’s a four lane road that could accommodate a higher speed. In-crease the speed to 30- then you won’t have a speeding problem,” Rouchealou said. “We’ve got part of this road, which is right next to the school, from Post Road which is 35 (mph). There’s no consistency.”
Orlikowski disagreed, saying many people would drive 5-10 miles faster than the posted speed limit regularly.
“You can’t tell me you wouldn’t drive faster than 25 if you felt it was safe to do so,” Orlikowski said, adding neither a speed increase nor a lane decrease are likely to solve the problem.
Village leaders also have concerns about the unmanned school crossing at HH and School Street, but have been unable to fill the crossing guard position. The previous crossing guards- a husband & wife team- retired after several years on the job.
Other suggestions including placing yield or stop sign on the HH/School Street intersection, or to install rumble strips along the roadway. But county leaders say there’s no data supporting any changes along the road.
“Any change in speed has to be justified by a speed or traffic study,” said Highway Commissioner Nathan Check.
County records show that stretch of road was last studied in 2007. The roadway is scheduled to be resurfaced in 2016, and bicycle lanes and additional sidewalks have been recommended by the county’s bicycle-pedestrian plan, but those elements haven’t been scheduled yet.
“The first thing we’d need to do is conduct a traffic study to see how fast cars are traveling on that stretch of road,” Check said, adding the village would have to pay for the study but said the cost varied.
“We wouldn’t recommend a stop sign out there because stop signs are used for intersection control,” Check said. “And we don’t have a history of accidents out there, and there seems to be good traffic control.”
Check added the village should consider whether safety was truly a problem along HH. Currently no traffic study is being planned for the road.
Village President Paul Stroik said the village was considering alternative options, such as a solar-powered roadside radar sign. The Village Board will discuss the issue again during its August meeting.