Moran: Is it time to slow back down in 21st-century Lake County?

Driving on Interstate 65 north of Indianapolis on a recent Saturday evening, I found myself stuck in a small muddle of cars — because at least one of those cars insisted on doing the posted 55 mph speed limit.

While these by-the-book vehicles gummed up the center and passing lanes, everyone else, it seemed, was itching to get back to the 70-mph limit beyond the metro area, such as it is. No one was itching more than the pack of motorcycle enthusiasts that roared up behind us.

After taking a second to survey the situation, first one and then another and another of these two-dozen sport bikes began weaving through the collection of vehicles, passing in between the lanes, close enough to reach out and wipe your mirrors clean.

That no one in this group of responsible citizens was injured or killed was a testament to driving skill and pure luck. It was an experience with many lessons for all involved, not the least of which is that one man’s speed limit is another man’s nuisance.

My Indianapolis adventure came to mind the other day when learning that the County of Lake is continuing on its mission to adjust speed limits to modern needs. Two seemingly minor alterations approved last week provide evidence that the more we encroach on old-time farmland, the more we need to scale back the speed.

Up near the state line, a 55 mph limit on Russell Road from Interstate 94 to “a point 1,100 feet west of the Des Plaines River bridge” was lowered to 45 mph. As recently as 10 years ago, when Russell Road was still largely surrounded by corn and trees, this move wouldn’t even have been a thought, much less a statutory decision.

A bit farther south, a smaller but no less telling change was made on Monaville Road between Fairfield and Cedar Lake roads, where the speed limit was trimmed from 50 to 45 mph. This comes less than a year after the speed limit on Monaville was cut from 45 to 40 between Route 83 and Cedar Lake.

Once again, this move reflects the rise not only of subdivisions in the area but also the Walmart at Route 83 and Monaville.

Just the other night, at the conclusion of yet another school-supply mission mentioned earlier this week in this space, I realized that making a right turn to head west on Monaville was the path of least resistance to escape a parking lot that was teetering on its breaking point.

Sure enough, I was not the only driver making this call. A post-sunset drive on Monaville Road was probably reserved for pleasure-seekers less than a generation ago, but now it is your basic route of commerce and residential living.

So where else can we expect to see speed limits altered to bring them in agreement with the 21st-century version of Lake County? There is obviously no shortage of ideas out there, and they probably fall along two lines: people who want lower speed limits near their homes, and those same people who want higher speed limits on their route to work.

Take the 50 mph limit on Route 120 between O’Plaine Road and Park City. Most drivers hit 60 at some point flying through there. Should the limit go up or down to promote safety?

And then there’s Washington Street between Almond Road and Route 45 in Gurnee, a 40 mph section lined with homes where vehicles will crawl in your hatchback if you do less than 50. Would lowering the limit rein in traffic or spark a revolt?

Of course, no matter what the signs say, traffic will do what traffic does — even in places like Greater Indianapolis.

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