Stacks of tickets sit on police Chief Patrick Sullivan’s desk, proof of the number of motorists caught breaking the 50 mph speed limit on U.S. 40 through the village of South Vienna.
With the speed limit recently increased to 60 mph, he said he worries how that stack will grow.
“Even when it was 50, we were stopping them at 62, 63, 64, 68, and we’re giving them eight to 10 miles over before we stop them,” he said. “Now that it’s changed to 60, they’ll come down through here at 70 mph. That’s a big concern to me.”
The speed limit was bumped from 50 mph to 60 mph as part of a statewide change increasing speeds along 194 miles of rural divided highways that went into effect Sept. 29. It included increasing the speed limit to 70 mph along additional non-urban highways not included in the July 1 change.
The Ohio Department of Transportation studied the legislation and applied it to the appropriate Ohio routes, said spokesman Steve Faulkner. However, according to ODOT data analyzed by the Springfield News-Sun, the majority of other state roadways already had a posted speed of 55 mph before the change. Faulkner indicated the 10 mph bump along the roughly 20 square miles of U.S. 40 that cuts through South Vienna is not common.
“That is more rare. I think that it kind of depends on the individual route and the legislation,” he said.
U.S. 40 runs through the center of the village, cutting South Vienna in half. Only about 600 people live in the village, but because it boasts ramps to Interstate 70 and runs roughly 500 feet away from South Vienna Elementary School, Sullivan said he believes hundreds more drive the route daily. The area has seen a number of car crashes, one of which was fatal at the intersection of Ohio 54.
Linda Sykes, who lives in the village, said she was surprised local legislators didn’t put up more of a fight when the speed limit was changed.
“If it’s 60 mph, you know people are going to go faster than 60,” she said. “It scares me because we’ve had accidents and fatalities at that intersection. People go by too fast.”
The traffic, coupled with pedestrians crossing and children being dropped off, should mean a lower speed limit in Sullivan’s opinion, but he said he has no authority to do so since speed limits are determined by the state.
“If there was something I could do about it, I would do it just for the safety of the people that live in the village,” he said.
Local leaders could request a “speed study” to determine if the limit should be changed. Faulkner told the News-Sun the study can be requested from the local ODOT District 7 office. He said there would be no charge for the study, which would look daily traffic and other factors, such as pedestrian travel, to determine the appropriate speed limit for that area.
So far, ODOT officials have not received a formal request for a study.