Cherry Blossoms near the Hogsback on Center Road/M37 | Jane Boursaw Photo
Cherry Blossoms near the Hogsback on Center Road/M37 | Jane Boursaw Photo

As long time summer residents and now full-time residents of Old Mission Peninsula, we have witnessed a lot of change. Some of these changes have been positive and others have been destructive.

Old Mission Peninsula is quite possibly the most unique piece of real estate in Michigan, being a true peninsula with breathtaking views of Grand Traverse Bay with its hues of blues and turquoise, views of acres upon acres of orchards and, more recently, views of vineyards and wineries. As a residential/agricultural area, we have it all, and we are truly blessed by our surroundings.

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The thing is, we are a residential/agricultural area, not a commercial corridor. We have grown to the point where traffic is constant on most of our roads. We have a mix of tourists and residents driving about, both with different aims. The tourists are here enjoying our Peninsula, taking their time to drive reasonably and take in the beautiful surroundings that many of us seem to be taking for granted these days.

Many of our residents, however, no longer look about with wonder at the charming area where we live. We are in a hurry to get to town and in a hurry to get home. We are tailgating cars that are driving near the speed limit. We are passing in no passing zones. We are speeding well beyond the speed limit, passing left-turning cars on the shoulder and slamming on horns. In short, we are driving aggressively and dangerously and illegally.

It’s time to slow down. Speeding has become a common complaint of residents on most of our main roads. We need to remember that the Old Mission Peninsula is a neighborhood, and that it is mostly residential and agricultural.

When I first started coming out to Old Mission more than 40 years ago, it was quiet, beautiful and unhurried. When my wife’s family bought a summer home on the Peninsula more than 55 years ago, the family dog would actually sleep on Center Road in the sun. The few cars that went by would slowly go around him, and the farmers on tractors would stop to say “Hi.”

Today, we have tenfold the traffic traveling at much greater speeds, but at the same time, our beautiful Peninsula attracts cycling and jogging clubs. Our own residents go out for a jog, take their pets out for walks, or ride bikes with their kids. The increased auto traffic and the increased pedestrian/cycling traffic are at odds.

The speed limit on Center Road is 55 mph. That’s 55 mph on a residential, scenic road that passes numerous homes on its way to a dead end at our quaint, historic lighthouse! There are miles of Center Road that should have a 45 mph speed limit or less for numerous reasons. It would be safer for residents, safer for tourists, safer for cyclists, safer for children, safer for our pets, and safer for pedestrians.

As an added benefit, a 45 mph speed limit on Center Road would greatly reduce traffic noise. I can stand outside a million dollar home on the Old Mission Peninsula that is hundreds of yards from Center Road, yet the noise from Center Road will be what you notice first about the home and what you notice most.

Reducing our speed limits in our residential areas will increase the enjoyability of our beautiful Peninsula for everyone, and it won’t cost anyone a dime.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. The lowering of the speed limit will only increase the behavior of which you would like to minimize. Residents like myself are driven to a point of exacerbation when we are behind someone going 40 or 45 on Center Road. And in my opinion, it is usually a resident, not a tourist.

    • I currently live in Albuquerque, NM, which has the distinction of being the city in the USA with the highest number of pedestrian deaths year after year, as well as ranking either number 1 or number 2 for the worst drivers yearly. Driving here is terrifying. The average citizen is going 15-20 miles over the speed limit, and the speed limit in residential neighborhoods varies from 25 to 45 mph. IMO, no matter how fast you allow people to go they want to go faster. I suggest lowered speed limits and cameras. The OM Peninsula could use the money and we don’t need this disrespectful, rude behavior here regardless of whether it is from residents or tourists.

      • Unfortunately, I believe speed cameras are illegal in Michigan although they are one method of automatic traffic regulation that has been researched and found to be effective by the National Highway Traffic Safety Board (NHTSA) especially in areas with a decreased availability for law enforcement officials to observe speeding as in Peninsula Twp. Many localities use speed and red lights cameras effectively and you can research the data yourself. This is not new news. Maybe our township elected leadership can look into becoming a specialized test area for speed cameras in a few problem areas along Center Rd. And yes, I’ve lived in several areas where both speed and red light cameras were used and yes, I’ve been caught. To me, it doesn’t matter if you are caught breaking the law by the sheriff or a camera. It’s a pretty clear issue. Let’s keep talking about this in terms of safety, community well being and quality of life and not allow politics to creep in and derail a possible solution. Doing nothing guarantees death and/or injury to our families and neighbors.

  2. Well said,Todd. When the weather is dry, I set my cruise control to 55 mph. And I still get tailgated every time by usually year round residents impatient to get wherever they are going. So this story that there are hoards of people driving OMP at 45mph is a self serving myth. When people can’t behave civilly, laws are made to govern behavior. That includes driving less than the posted speed limit if road conditions are poor. And if people can’t accept a community supported lowered speed limit to protect lives because they are impatient, I say grow up. Of course this is just my opinion.

  3. I agree with Todd 100% on all points. Interesting that even Garfield Road which has very little residential is 45mph.
    Lois Byrne

  4. The time difference between going 40 mph and going 55 mph on a 15 mile stretch is literally SIX MINUTES. Do you suppose if we keep repeating this fact over and over, the residents who are in too much of a hurry to live on a peninsula will finally understand that (how about some billboards!)? Do the passers pay attention to the issue that the folks they passed meet them at Every. Single. Light? Because WE notice, and shake our heads! My spouse sets his cruise to 35 on Peninsula Dr., and was passed twice this week, once by a woman with grandkids in the car (who was then in front of him at all the lights into town). She saved 30 seconds.

  5. Just enforce the current speed limit. The Township could get Sherrif’s deputies here once a week and it would make a big difference

  6. Center Road is a State Highway and the speed needs to remain at 55 mph. I have driven to work 40 + years (12 miles) and if everyone drove the speed limit there wouldn’t be a problem, especially in the summer. Winter is a different matter. The slow drivers are just as dangerous as the fast. I do know there are many who drive too fast, over the limit by 10 mph , and there are those who pass illegally and that is part of the reason our tax dollars pay extra for a dedicated Sherriff deputy on the peninsula. As far as Center Road being in a residential zone, people knew they were building on a State Highway when most of these houses were built.

    • It is a Pure Michigan Scenic Biway and is considered by the State to be a tourist access road to a State park, not a section of a State Trunk Highway. There are hundreds of miles of State Highway in Michigan with speeds lower than 55, many even 25 as they pass through residential areas.

  7. As a cyclist and someone who lived on the peninsula for ~20 years, the speed isn’t so much the issue. People will always go over the speed limit (45 mph speed limit stops few from going 55). Plus, modern cars are well equipped to drive safely at higher speeds. The key aspects of failure on Center Road are a bit more specific than a speed limit. There are certainly many good fixes for this problem.

    1. Wider shoulders.
    Wider shoulders on the road would allow for safer recreation for cyclists, walkers, runners, etc. Oftentimes on the first mile or so of Center Road towards town, I must avoid parts of the shoulder because it is too small/too decayed. Wider and smoother shoulders would make it more safe for everyone, as the road could be used for cars and the shoulder for others.

    2. Passing lanes.
    You don’t live on the peninsula if you’ve never been pissed about someone going incredibly slowly up the road for miles. With passing lanes, slow drivers could go slow. Drivers going the speed limit would move more efficiently. Those who are tempted to speed past slow drivers would have a medium to move past slow drivers, thereby reducing speeding/aggressive passing overall. Passing lanes would encourage better behavior, knowing that there is a spot to move past slow drivers. 2-3 of these on Center Road would be sufficient. Perhaps the area along Underwood Farms, near Bluff/Grey road intersection, and near Mapleton. North of Mapleton is probably not a concern with limited traffic going through there, currently.

    3. Right and left specific turn lanes.
    The difficult thing about Center Road is it is a very inefficient highway-it is a state highway, by the way. Traffic moves relatively slowly and the average speed is low because of frequent stops and starts. If vehicles could maintain that speed while going straight but slow down out of the way to make a turn, travel would be more efficient and there would be less incentive to speed (to make up time, etc.). Having turn lanes would hopefully reduce collisions as well, due to less passing around turning vehicles and rear ending.

    4. More areas for scenic view stops.
    Many of those who go slowly up the Peninsula are tourists or those who want to appreciate the view, quite frankly. More locations for cars to pull off would remove the ‘spectating’ vehicles off the road, which would benefit traffic flow and safety on the road.

    I don’t expect these to happen for a long time, if ever. Passing lanes would be especially expensive and the State doesn’t have a large incentive to service Center Road because it is not a main artery. Nonetheless, I think these are all sensible solutions that would benefit all stakeholders affected by Center Road. For now, I will continue to happily ride and walk along Center Road every now and then. I do prefer Peninsula Drive for all that, though!

    • Many of the issues started with the original paving and widening of the shoulders, where people now feel it is ok to pass a stopped turning vehicle by crossing the solid white line and passing on the shoulder. Many of your suggested solutions would involve eminent domain and seizure of private property and I would certainly hope our community would be against that when all we really need to do is obey the law and be polite to one another. I find it interesting that you prefer Peninsula Drive for walks and rides, when that road is experiencing the same issues and has no paved shoulder.

  8. Sorry about your million dollar home, part of the trashing of the peninsula. Slower traffic is a worthwhile pursuit.

    • Mort, I am not sure where in my writings that it says I live in a million dollar home. My home was built in the 60’s and is far from the largest or most expensive home around. I also don’t see what the value of my home has to do with my concern for our residents and visitors safety while they drive around our beautiful peninsula.

  9. Lowering the speed limit and ALL that would entail should NOT be motivated by the fact that it’s “unpleasant” for the occupants/builders of the multi million $$ McMansions!

    • Eileen, my opinion is motivated by a concern over safety and my experience responding to accidents, as a private citizen might I add, that would not have happened if all involved had been following existing traffic laws. I am not certain of the opinion of the “McMansion” owners, as I am not one of them. I am a long time resident that has witnessed a drastic change in driving behavior on our peninsula over the past few years.

  10. I am totally against lowering the speed limit on Center Road. Currently, I call it a “gift” if I can travel at 55 mph. Most drivers are going 45. They are not considerate enough to pull over so that those of us who choose to drive at 55 can do so. I believe if the limit is lowered to 45, some will drive 35. When you live 15 miles from town and have an emergency, what do you do? There are at most three places to pass. We have Peninsula Drive and Bluff and East Bay Drive for those who wish to travel at a slower speed. There has to be a more expedient way to get to town!

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