City Council Recap: New Speed Limits Coming to Main Street

The first August meeting for the Lowell City Council ran approximately 30 minutes and included three pieces of new business. During the city manager’s report, councilmembers also heard about the results of a recent meeting with the Michigan Department of Transportation and results from a study of the sanitary and storm water system.

Pink Arrow Community Day Announcement

Prior to addressing agenda items, the Lowell City Council took citizen comments for items not appearing on the agenda. Perry Beachum addressed the council to remind them that Pink Arrow Community Day will be held on Thursday, August 16. It’s the first day Pink Arrow XI shirts will be available, and All-Weather Seal will donate $1 for every shirt sold that day.

A free hot dog lunch and dinner from the grill will be provided as part of the festivities. Spectrum Health will have a mobile mammography bus on hand to screen for breast cancer, and Michigan Blood will be running a blood drive as well. For every pint of blood donated, Gilda’s Club will receive $10.

Those interested in a mammogram or donating blood should register in advance. Financial assistance may be available for those who would like a mammogram but are unable to afford one. More information is available on the Pink Arrow website.

Short Agenda for Meeting

As is often the case, there was no old business listed on the meeting agenda. Councilmember Greg Canfield noted its absence. “I think sometimes old business falls off the horizon,” he said. He mentioned the sidewalks as one item that had been previously discussed and has not been on the agenda recently.

“I like to have things where I can give you something tangible,” City Manager Mike Burns said, explaining why old business might not show up on every agenda. Several councilmembers noted it would be good to have status updates on issues going forward.

Then, the city council moved on to three items of new business. They unanimously approved a payment of $106,104 to Kent County to cover the city’s portion of road work on Hudson Street. The project came in under budget, saving the city $44,000 in anticipated costs.

Next, the Lowell City Council unanimously approved an agreement with Progressive Heating, Cooling & Refrigeration for preventative maintenance for City Hall and the Englehardt Library. Finally, by unanimous vote, the council approved an agreement with First Advantage Enterprise Screening Corporation to provide required substance abuse testing for city employees with commercial driver’s licenses (CDL).

City Manager Report: New Website and SAW Grant Update

During his city manager’s report, Burns mentioned a new city website would be launched in the next week or two. The website would be moving to a new domain as well.

Burns also provided an update on smoke testing being done on city water lines as part of the Stormwater, Asset Management and Wastewater (SAW) Program grant. While some inflow of storm water into the sanitary sewer line was found, 68 percent of the system lines are in good or excellent condition. Nearly 15 percent are in average condition, almost 14 percent are in poor condition and the remainder were unable to be evaluated. Those pipes that are in poor condition likely won’t need to be fully replaced and can be spot repaired.

The study of the storm system is still ongoing with a quarter of the pipes yet to be evaluated. Of those already inspected, 70 percent are in good or excellent condition. “Not even one percent of the storm system is deemed poor at this point,” Burns said.

New Speeds, Pedestrian Crossing on Main Street

At the end of his report, Burns turned over the floor to Chief Steve Bukala to discuss the results of a recent meeting with MDOT.

The city had requested a speed study be completed along the Main Street corridor. The last speed study done in the area was completed in 1988, and one was required by the state in order for the city to keep its electronic speed signs operating. These signs are posted at both ends of the historic downtown to track speeds by radar and warn drivers when they are over the limit.

With the signs on, speeds along the stretch were 24 miles per hour. For the speed study, the signs were turned off, and traffic speeds rose to 28 miles per hour. Based on the 85th percentile speed, MDOT planned to increase the speed on Main Street to 30 miles per hour in the downtown.

However, Bukala was able to successfully argue that the level of pedestrian traffic in the downtown made an increase in the speed limit unsafe. He also noted that when the electronic signs were on, they successfully reduced speeds below 25 miles per hour.

The Michigan State Police agreed with Bukala’s assessment, and the downtown speed will remain 25 miles per hour. Still, MDOT is making adjustments to the speeds outside the historic area to provide a more gradual drop to the 25 miles per hour zone.

Once the signs are updated, the new speeds on Main Street are expected to be, going from east to west:

  • City limit to James: 55mph
  • James to near Keiser’s Restaurant: 50mph
  • Keiser’s to Jefferson: 40mph
  • Jefferson to Hudson: 25mph
  • Hudson to near McDonald’s: 35mph
  • McDonald’s to city limit: 45mph

Burns added MDOT had expressed an openness to discussing the addition of a left turn lane off Main Street onto Hudson Street as well.

As a final note, Bukala said pedestrian signs had been added to the crosswalk on Main Street near the Riverwalk. MDOT has given permission for the city to direct traffic to stop for pedestrians, as allowed in the Uniform Traffic Code. Bukala notes that, despite previous instructions not to stop, drivers should now yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

The Lowell City Council meeting wrapped up at 7:27pm. The next meeting will be held on Monday, August 20, at 7pm in the Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall.

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