Not too long ago, I got a speeding ticket on Peninsula Drive. I know what you’re thinking. “Slow down, Jane! You’re going to kill someone!” And you might picture me whipping through those S-curves doing upwards of 100 mph, my little Jeep on two wheels as I barely avoid careening through the bushes into West Bay.
Um, no. For one thing, my 20-year-old Jeep shakes maniacally if I go over 65 mph. And for another thing, I was only doing 5 mph over the speed limit. And that’s what our friendly Peninsula Township deputy Jason Hamilton wrote me a ticket for, which amounted to something like $120 when I went to pay it at the Robert P. Griffin Hall of Justice in town. (And hey, I come by any proclivities to speeding honestly. They didn’t call my mom “Leadfoot Mary” for nothing.)
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(Correction per Grand Traverse County Sheriff Tom Bensley in the comments section below: “Ms. Boursaw … Could you please make another correction to this article … After speaking with Deputy Hamilton I was informed that the reason for the traffic stop was that you were travelling 51 mph in a 35 mph zone … Not 5 mph over the limit … The citation was written for exceeding the speed limit by 1 to 5 mph…”
And from me: I’m sure he told me at the time, but I didn’t remember it when I wrote this story, which was a couple months later. Then I was going to include a picture of the ticket in the story, but I couldn’t find it! When he wrote me the ticket, I was distracted with working up the courage to ask if I could take a picture of him for the article but then chickened out. I asked him later, but he declined because he wasn’t sure that was allowed in his job.)
Oh, I learned my lesson. I haven’t sped along ANY Peninsula road since then. I mean, who has an extra $120 to randomly throw at a speeding ticket? And of course, there’s the whole safety issue thing. I can’t say that driving
5 16 mph over the speed limit greatly endangered anyone, but seriously, people and pets HAVE been killed by drivers speeding along Peninsula Drive, so we have to be careful along there.
Here’s the thing, though. It’s really easy to go 5 mph over the speed limit on Peninsula Drive. For the record, the speed limit from the forks (intersection of Peninsula Drive and Center Road) all the way to Gray Road is 35 mph. So while that might not seem slow in towards town, once you get out on Peninsula Drive a little ways, it’s not hard to go 40 or 45 mph. You really have to pay attention to your speedometer.
Another thing is, when you actually go 35 mph all the way out to Gray Road, you will have a long line of cars backed up behind you. I’ve been paying attention and know this to be true. In fact, one time while doing 35 mph about a mile out from the forks, I pulled over to let someone speed by me. I happened to see Peninsula Drive resident Marty Brauer working in a flower patch at the bottom of her driveway. After the person sped by me, I saw her throw up her hands in dismay, so of course, I stopped to chat.
Marty said people speed down that stretch of Peninsula Drive all the time, and it’s a constant worry for the residents along there. She worries about her family crossing the road to get to the beach, made even more perilous because of the somewhat blind curve there.
Another time, I pulled over to let someone speed by me, and lo and behold, further down the road I saw Deputy Hamilton writing them a ticket. That did my heart good. Like, see?! You speed down this road, Buster, you’re going to get a ticket! Just like I did! I was so heartened by that speeder getting a ticket, I pulled over and took a picture. In fact, over the summer months, I saw Deputy Hamilton camped out along that stretch of road quite often.
As far as the rest of Peninsula Drive, the speed limit changes to 45 mph at Gray Road and stays at 45 mph for the rest of the road. In fact, if you follow Peninsula Drive out to where it intersects with Seven Hills Road, there’s no speed limit posted on the rest of Peninsula Drive. I asked Deputy Hamilton about this, and he said that if there is no speed limit posted, it defaults to 55 mph.
I’m not exactly sure how that works, because the speed limit on Peninsula Drive past Gray Road is 45 mph all the way to the stop sign at Seven Hills Road. So does that mean the speed limit on Peninsula Drive from Seven Hills Road to Swaney Road is 45 mph? Or does it default to 55 mph? Because that road turns into a dirt road between Old Mission Road and Swaney Road, and 55 mph on that stretch is ridiculously fast.
At any rate, Peninsula Township’s speeding issues aren’t limited to Peninsula Drive. People speed down every road on this Peninsula, especially us longtime locals (well, not me since I got that speeding ticket) who feel like we know the road really well and have places to be, people to see. We’re going to work or the store or town or wherever. People blame the new transplants for bringing their bad habits up north with them. I say no, it’s probably the locals whose families have been here for six generations.
East Shore Drive is another road with precarious speeding conditions. As with Peninsula Drive, the speed limit is lower in towards town, then increases as you get further out of town. Yet people speed down that road all the time.
Same with Bluff Road. The speed limit is 35 mph from Center Road all the way to the Bluffs, at which point it increases to 45 mph, then 55 mph from Blue Water Road north to Boursaw Road (corrected per Jim Linsell in the comments section at the bottom of this story – thanks, Jim). And yet, people speed down Bluff Road all the time, and there aren’t a lot of places where you can legally pass someone on that curvy road. I usually pull over and let people pass, because I don’t like a whole line of cars behind me.
And then there’s the little village of Old Mission. The residents on Swaney Road have actually put out home-made signs telling drivers to slow down before they round the curve to Haserot Beach, where during the summer months, kids and grownups cross the road all the time because there’s inadequate parking at the beach and people park along the road rather than the overflow parking next to the Legion Hall.
I believe there may or may not be similar home-made signs around the Neahtawanta Resort (but you didn’t hear it from me).
Center Road, our main thoroughfare, is notorious for speeders. At the public hearings for Vineyard Ridge and The 81 developments, I’ve heard John Fisher stand up and say more than once that people speed past his house on Center Road all the time – and he’s invited anyone who doesn’t believe it to sit on his porch and see for themselves. I know whenever I’ve stopped along Center Road to take pictures of Vineyard Ridge, it’s like you’re in the middle of the Indy 500.
I noticed that on Sheridan Road by the high school, they’ve painted the speed limit directly onto the road. I wonder if that’s helped to slow people down there. I know it’s made me pay more attention to the speed limits along that little road connecting Center Road with Eastern Avenue. I’ve also noticed that the radar machines are a good reminder about the speed limits. Here we are dutifully following the law on Peninsula Drive (don’t worry, Tim was driving.)
I’m not sure what the answer is, but there’s only so much that our one Peninsula Township deputy can do. Since many of our roads fall under the jurisdiction of the Grand Traverse County Road Commission, I think that’s probably a good place to start with issues about speeders. In particular, I’ve heard folks mention Ron Rohloff. His contact info is (231) 922-4849, ext. 212, or email [email protected].
In the case of state roads, i.e. Center Road, aka M37, I believe Peninsula Township can pass a resolution requesting a speed study from MDOT and the Michigan State Police.
I look forward to your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this story.
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb