Lynne Hermansen
Johnson County Commissioners approved raising the speed limit on 13 road segments in unincorporated parts of the county, Thursday June 23.
Jeff Foss, Johnson County Public works, said the 13 segments met the criteria of raising the speed limits to 40 or 45mph and that 85 percent of people who drive these areas drive faster than the posted 35mph speed limit.
Foss said the public works department worked closely with Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden and approved the change.
Charlotte O’Hara, commissioner, said she had great concerns about roads in her district.
Sheriff Hayden said most speed limits would be raised from 35 to 45 miles per hour and had been improved, paved and contained shoulders.
Shirley Allenbrand, commissioner, said thank you to the Sheriff and Public Works Department for their research.
“Your vehicles are on the road all the time so if anyone knows safety it is you,” she said.
Janee Hanzlick, commissioner, said she doesn’t regularly drive gravel roads or unincorporated roads.
“I think it should be 20 miles per hour,” she said.
Hanzlick said she understood the rational behind changing the speed limit but wanted to know if the road changed—if it would be sudden speed change or a stop sign before the speed change.
Foss said there would be frequent stop signs and the speed would be lower where the road turned to gravel.
Over the years much discussion had occurred over unincorporated road speed limits, Ed Eilert, commission chair, said.
“I appreciate the professional engineers,” he said.
Allenbrand said she had learned how much research goes into road safety planning when she had made corrections happen at the Four Corners intersection after many deaths had occurred.
“A lot of work went into that—a lot of thought,” she said.
Jennifer Williams, Spring Hill resident on Moonlight Road, said she wanted Cedar Niles to be removed from the plan as one of the approved road segments as she encountered a significant amount of dangerous driving by her home.
“I think it is interesting that if 85 percent of people are breaking the law we just change the law,” she said. “They blow through stop signs. Everything else out there is 35mph.”
Williams said many semi trucks use it as a truck route and also don’t follow the traffic routes making it more dangerous.
Sheriff Hayden said unfortunately most of the people disobeying the speed laws were people who lived in the neighborhood.
“And sometimes they look like they are going faster than they are,” he said. “It’s a tough deal to predict right and wrong. We use all the data and have officers out there.”
Hayden said the county has one officer per district and have to pick and choose enforcement so they choose high traffic areas. “Every day I drive on a 35 mph road and speed a little,” he said.
Hayden said they could consider changes but speeds can be all over because of density and site distances. He said sometimes studies also take awhile.
Michael Ashcraft, commissioner, said they had requested 45 segments of road have speed limit changes and asked if they had objections to the 13.
Sheriff Hayden said they approved of the 13 road changes.
Hanzlick said she wanted to know how the speed limit changes would be posted on the roads.
Foss said for now it would be through flagging and lighting.
O’Hara said she wanted to make an amended motion for a few of the road segments to be taken out and further researched. These roads included Pflumn from 199th to 207th in her district.
“We have cyclists,” she said. “It is just chip and seal with no shoulders and the roadway is rough. We dodge potholes.”
O’Hara said 207th from Switzer to Antioch was gravel and she rides her bike out there. She said she would also like to see Cedar Niles researched per Jennifer Williams request, Antioch from 207th North to Overland Park City limits and Pflumn from 175th to 199th as it diminishes in quality after 199th.
“I’m using these roads on a regular basis,” she said. “Pflumn has a lot of hidden driveways. These aren’t built for speed.”
O’Hara said raising the speed limits to 45 mph would have motorists naturally assuming they can drive 5 mph over the posted speed safely  without fear of a ticket.
Eilert said they couldn’t make specific changes without data because there would be a liability issue but they could provide flexibility for additional reviews of the roads.
Allen brand said she trusted the Sheriff to meet with Jennifer Williams and come back to the county for further discussion.
The motion amendment failed 2 to 5.
Hanzlick said she usually wasn’t in favor of increasing speeds on rural roads but trusted the Sheriff’s Department.
“If changing doesn’t work as planned we can go back to the original speed limits,” she said. “It’s not my area of expertise.”
Sheriff Hayden said they would go down to the selected roads and look again.
“We don’t write violations for revenue but to serve a purpose,” he said.
O’Hara said she would be glad to go out and show Sheriff Hayden what she experiences.
“I don’t want a cyclist hit and taken off the road,” she said. “Pedestrians walk dogs on these roads. I prefer to be safe not sorry.”