The folks at the Morrison County Record are demanding change.  Someone at the newspaper has a lead foot and wants to put it to use.  In the Our View section of this week’s paper, the lead footed make a case for increasing the speed limit on Haven Road.

Haven Road, for those of you unfamiliar with Little Falls, is actually a continuation of First Street Northeast, one of the main roads through downtown.  The road becomes Haven as soon as one crosses the railroad tracks on the north end of town, very near City Hall.  This road was widened and repaved this past summer.  Now that it has been improved, the Record notes that “the new design of that stretch invites people to speed up, and most people drive between 35 and 40 mph.”  The Record continues with the following:

“That being the case, we believe that the speed limit should be increased to 40 mph east of the railroad tracks.  To leave it at 30 mph is to invite disrespect for the law, which is never a good thing.”

Let’s get this straight.  The Record is arguing that the speed limit should be increased on this stretch of road because people are already going over the speed limit and we don’t want them to disrespect the law.  Are you serious?  [Phineas continues reading.]  I guess so, because toward the end of the article, the Record states, “Laws need to be reasonable and fit the norms of public behavior.”  Well, that’s interesting.  Have you noticed that no matter where the speed limit is increased, people have a tendency to go five to ten miles per hour over the posted limit?  The Interstate has a speed limit of 70 mph, but people regularly go 75 to 80.  Just because something seems to be a public norm, it doesn’t mean that we should automatically give in to that norm.  If you jack the speed limit on Haven Road up to 40 mph through this area, it’s a guarantee that people will speed up to 45 or 50.

Let’s set aside the argument that we should increase the speed limit on Haven Road because everyone is driving that speed anyway and examine the situation from a different perspective.  My Fish Wrap colleague Suckerlip Blenny and I took a little drive on Haven Road to check things out.   We wanted to figure out why the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) thought it would be appropriate to set the speed limit at 30 mph through this stretch.

As we drove over the tracks, we hit the mileage counter to see how long the stretch in question was.  We were looking to see when the speed limit changed.  From the track to just past 13th Avenue Northeast, the speed limit was 30 mph.  Once past 13th Avenue Northeast, a speed limit sign indicated an increase to 45 mph.  The distance between the tracks and the 45 mph sign was approximately half a mile.  Between the tracks and the 45 mph speed limit sign, we noted that we moved from a residential area into a business area.  There are new apartment buildings in this stretch along the river.  There is a Casey’s gas station, Charlie’s Pizza, Dairy Queen (which is getting a full face-lift), and the Crestliner boat manufacturing plant.

Is it possible that MNDOT looked at these businesses and figured that with all the traffic coming and going, the wisest decision was to keep the speed limit at 30 mph?  Have you noticed all the kids that frequent the Dairy Queen in the summer?  How about all those cars streaming out of Crestliner, off of 13th Avenue Northeast, when the shift changes?  Having driven through this stretch myself during busy times of the day, I think MNDOT made the right decision.

But, Suckerlip Blenny and I weren’t done yet.  It was time to strain our brains with MATH.  What kind of time might people save if the speed limit increased from 30 mph to 40 mph for this half-mile stretch?  It takes 2 minutes to travel one mile driving 30 mph.  It takes 1.5 minutes to travel a mile driving at 40 mph.  Divide those minutes in half to get the time it takes to travel a half-mile.  It takes one minute to travel a half-mile going at 30.  It takes 45 seconds to travel a half-mile at 40 mph.  The difference between those amounts is the time you would save by speeding up – a mere 15 seconds.  If anyone enters Haven Road from 13th Avenue Northeast in front of you, you’re going to have to slow down, which will eat up those 15 seconds.

If you haven’t got 15 seconds to spare in a day, you need to torch up some incense and schedule a weekend at a Zen center for some meditation and introspection, ’cause your life is just waaaaay too busy.

Glub, glub, ohmmmmmmmm . . . .

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

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