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October 22, 2019

10/1/2019 7:30:00 AM
Oneida public works debates Kemp Street speed limit
Fred Williston
Special to the Lakeland Times

One of Rhinelander's main gateways, Kemp Street, has a new look and county officials are beginning the process of evaluating the speed limit in that area.

Last Thursday, the Oneida County Public Works Committee debated the merits of the recently-reduced speed limit on a portion of Kemp Street in Rhinelander.

In conjunction with the Rhinelander roundabout project, Kemp Street (to the east of the roundabout) also underwent heavy reconstruction.

Prior to construction, the four lanes of the road merged into two lanes at the Kemp Street bridge. The speed limit on Kemp had been 45 mph until the merge, where the limit was reduced to 25. That created problems, according to Oneida County highway commissioner Bruce Stefonek.

"People were racing to be the first car over the bridge," he said.

Engineers from Ayers Associates - the firm in charge of design and subcontracting for the reconstruction project - also noticed a pattern of drivers speeding up into the merge. To combat the problem, they designed the new version of Kemp Street to merge into two lanes about two-tenths of a mile west of the bridge near the intersection of Kemp and Sutliff Avenue, near the Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce.

Engineers also ordered the 25 mph signs to be moved roughly three-tenths of a mile from their old location near the bridge to a point well west of Sutliff. The change has taken some drivers by surprise.

"I don't remember approving that," committee chairman Robb Jensen said.

"It's a tactic to slow the traffic down," Stefonek told the committee. "Lloyd Gauthier, the Rhinelander police chief, says he's seen a major difference in the speed ... He said they saw a significant reduction in speed at the beginning of the bridge."

"I drive that every day and here's what my constituents are telling me: 'You are asking us to go down to 25 way too early,'" Jensen said. "They're saying 'Why are you trying to slow that traffic down so fast?' and 'What you're going to create is a speed trap.' Where that goes to 25, I bet most people are still going over 35."

Supervisor Steven Schreier - who is not a member of the committee - was in attendance and said he had spoken to Gauthier on that subject.

"Lloyd spoke to that, and he said it's hard to find spots to do the enforcement, because anywhere he sits, it appears that he's trying to entrap people," Schreier said.

"I think we should leave this thing alone and see how it plays out," supervisor Ted Cushing said.

Supervisor Mike Timmons read a communication he received from Gauthier with his recommendation, which was to monitor the area and re-visit the subject of the speed limits after three months' time.

"To get down to 25, I think, is unreasonable when you're still that far from the bridge," Jensen said. "People from my district, when they're coming into town, it's because they're going someplace. They're trying to get somewhere."

"What Lloyd said is also my recommendation," Stefonek told the supervisors.

"In (Gauthier's) opinion, everything is working good the way it is now," Timmons said. "And I'll make the motion that we let things play out the way they are right now, talk to the sheriff and the police chief, and, at the first of the year, see what their recommendations are. And complaints? Let's document them. But I think it's good. Leave it as-is."

"It is a good thing that we're getting the speed reduced close to the bridge," Jensen added.

The committee voted unanimously on Timmons' motion and will hear recommendations from law enforcement agencies in early 2020.

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, October 2, 2019
Article comment by: Craig Strid

The major difference between a digital speed display and a law enforcement officer is the traffic citation.
Some departments allow traffic to self regulate.
Food for thought
Craig Strid

Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Article comment by: Craig Strid

Set up radar on Reik St. Point the radar in an Eastbound direction and trigger all incoming and out going traffic. Mentally set a speed and up that's extreme and warrants issuance of a citation. Document operator's reasoning and issue citation. Do it consistently until motorists anticipate.your presents. Some Traffic is conditionally slowing down before the bridge in anticipation of the temporary traffic standards.that were placed there during construction. Warnings and breaks shine the light on the enforcer not the safety of the community. Humility and empathy address the time of enforcement deliverance.

This is law enforcement not entrapment.

Food for thought
Craig Strid

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