Last month, members of the Dane County Sheriff’s Office and the Dane County Highway Department attended the Oregon City Board meeting following widespread confusion over the overlap county and state laws regarding changes to local speed limits.
Dane County Highways and Transportation Assistant Commissioner Pam Dunphy, Highway Engineer Brian Rice, Dane County Sheriff’s Office Field Services Division Captain Jan Tetzlaff, and County Sheriff of Dane, Kalvin Barrett, attended the Nov. 2 meeting to outline how speed limits could be reduced for the council. and interested community members.
Some community members want to see speed limits reduced on Glenway Road and Sun Valley Parkway, Councilor Kate Gladding said. But the council’s ability to change speed limits differs on the road, she said.
Sometimes permission from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is required, but permission from Dane County is not required to reduce the speed limit on a local road.
“No matter who you called, you got a different answer,” she said.
So it was “really good” to have four people in the know to address the city’s concerns and provide information through a presentation, Gladding said.
And it was “really cool” that the sheriff cared enough to speak up at the meeting, she said.
“He said some nice things — ‘I care about all of you, not just Madison’ — we got a lot of answers about what we can and can’t do,” Gladding said.
Although there is no specific data on how many hours the sheriff’s department spends on traffic patrol, the department said there is little crime in the city and traffic is the biggest problem it answers.
Prior to the Nov. 2 meeting, there had been confusion among city administrators whether a speed study was necessary for a municipality to reduce the speed limit by 10 miles per hour.
Currently, nearly all speed limits on city roads are 55 miles per hour, and a traffic study is needed to lower it to 45, Gladding said.
A municipality must follow state laws to reduce the speed limit and complete a speed study, Rice said, which states that all speed limit changes must be based on a traffic engineering study.
Dane County is also willing to provide a traffic engineering study to local municipalities that request one, at a cost of $600, Rice said.
The council unanimously agreed to contract the Dane County Highway Department for a speed study on Glenway Road, in which a Dane County highway engineer would recommend where to place speed limit signs if the limits change.
During the meeting, Rice gave a presentation on speed limits, noting that lowering speed limits isn’t always the best way to deter speeding. Sometimes reducing speed limits can create irrational speed limits which can lead to greater speed variability. A speed limit should be set at less than 5 miles per hour of what 85% of motorists travel, he said.
But if there are lower speed limits, the city needs help enforcing that, Tetzlaff said, because current speed limits aren’t being enforced.
Tetzlaff said she would help better enforce limits and issue tickets.
Tetzlaff told the Observer that the sheriff’s department was asked to make a presentation for the city council on the possibility of getting additional coverage from the department. Currently, a single deputy covers all townships in the southwest portion of Dane County, she said.
Sometimes townships want additional traffic enforcement because councils will receive speeding complaints from citizens, she said.
But with limited downtime, if the department can’t fix that, townships must take out additional coverage.
While Tetzlaff said the city council was not ready to be able to fund additional coverage, she addressed specific concerns that they needed to help the township better manage the situation.
The city could contract with the Dane County Sheriff’s Department for a minimum of four hours per month. The city could also choose to work with the Village of Brooklyn to share a deputy.
Residents of Glenway Road reported at the Nov. 2 meeting that they had not seen the speeding enforcement or a Dane County MP in a long time, and see Green County MPs more than Dane, which Tetzlaff said was concerning.
“The sheriff’s office only has a limited number of deputies on patrol,” she said. “Complaints about speed and traffic are a common concern in the cantons. We want to be responsive and fix the problem when it arises, but it’s hard for us to say that we will always have someone there. Sometimes traffic control takes a back seat, but we want to help, so we make suggestions and work with the county highway department to reduce speeds in areas.
Dane County deputies were dispatched to the Oregon town the following day to control speeds on Glenway Road and Sun Valley Parkway. They also temporarily placed radar speed signs to let drivers know their speed.
“Sometimes people don’t pay attention, it helps them slow down,” Tetzlaff said.
As more homes were built on roads like Sun Valley Parkway, there was not only an increase in cars, but also cyclists and runners, Tetzlaff said.
There are long-term solutions like resurfacing the roads, she says, but they don’t come cheap.
After talking with the city of Oregon, the sheriff’s department plans to start providing cities with speeding dispatch call data, though it’s not contracted to provide that service, said she declared.
Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett said he supports ‘evidence-based practices for delivering 21st century policing’ and enjoys listening to and learning from community members, balancing their needs with processes administrative and make decisions based on facts.
“Our philosophy here at the Dane County Sheriff’s Office is to combine our evidence-based decision-making, fair procedural practices with community engagement and input to provide appropriate and personalized service to the communities we serve. “, Barrett told the Observer.