Driving It Home: Tickets, warnings roughly tripled on Losey Boulevard since speed limit changed

A change to the speed limit on part of Mormon Coulee Rd. has brought renewed attention to Losey Blvd.

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)- The speed limit went down on a portion of La Crosse’s Mormon Coulee Road recently. This is renewing conversations by residents over whether or not it can make drivers slow down, especially because it’s not the only major street that has changed over the last few years.

The speed limit dropped from 30 to 25 miles per hour on Losey Boulevard on June 23, 2017. News 8 Now compared the same period before and after the change
and found that warnings and tickets have just about tripled.

Some in the community, including law enforcement officials, think more needs to be done to get drivers to slow down.

Barb Clark was one of the original residents who called for updates to Losey Blvd. For more than thirty years, Clark and her family have lived on the street.

“Why did we pick this house? My husband found it and it was great,” said Clark.

It is near a gas station and down the street from the grocery store. Just a few blocks away, there were schools for their kids, Ryan and Matt.

“So that’s why we purchased it,” Clark said.

But as time went on, she started noticing more semi traffic. The road was deteriorating and drivers were speeding by.

“My house was literally shaking. Especially when the semis would go by, it would vibrate,” Clark said.

Her neighbors felt it too. They wanted the city to address their concerns.

“So we went to the council,” Clark said.

Petition Document

From La Crosse Legislative Information Center. File #17-0276.

Their petition called for city leaders to repair Losey Blvd., change the traffic signals at the State Road intersection, reduce the speed limit to 25 miles per hour, and reroute semis to other locations.

“I believe that we pay a lot in taxes and we live in a residential area and we shouldn’t have to worry about the speed on the road or the vibrations of our house,” Clark said.

In a letter addressed to the mayor and city council members, City Engineer Randy Turtenwald recommended repairing portions of Losey. But, called the speeding problem a law enforcement issue. In the letter, he said, “in my opinion reducing the speed limit back to 25 mph is not going to slow the traffic down without heavy law enforcement.”

Turtenwald did not respond to our request for an interview for this story.

“It started off with a lot of written warnings,” said Officer Dustin Darling of the La Crosse Police Department, as he drives down the street.

Officers were out on road especially right after the change and during construction.

“At first it was educating people and making sure people were aware, being present, being visual about the decrease in the speed,” said Lt. Avrie of the La Crosse Police Department.

Tickets issued for 10 MPH over before

Tickets issued by the La Crosse Police Department from 11/8/2014 to 06/22/2017 (2 years 7 months 15 days). This is based on tickets that had speed information available.

Tickets issued for 10 MPH over after

Tickets issued by the La Crosse Police Department from 6/23/2017 to 2/6/2020 (2 years 7 months 15 days). This is based on tickets issued that had speed information available.

Data from the police department shows that the most number of tickets are given for 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. That means before, the most number of tickets were issued for drivers going 40 miles per hour. But now, the most number of tickets are issued for drivers going 35 miles per hour. However, the police department said some of these could have been lenient and therefore do not represent the actual speed the driver was going.

“It did take a while. It wasn’t right away. But over the course of the months I’ve noticed that people are driving slower,” Clark said.

But still, the number of tickets and warnings has about tripled. Based on the information available, it’s unclear if that is because there has been a more concerted effort to monitor the street or if more people are not obeying the posted speed limit.

“We can go out and we can write a thousand tickets today for speeding and tomorrow you’re still going to have somebody speeding,” Schott said.

Schott said they can only do so much.

“Ultimately I think it comes down to them choosing to follow the speed limit as well as looking at the traffic flow and the traffic patterns,” Schott said.

It was an issue that the city’s engineer did address in his letter of recommendation. Instead of changing the speed limit, Turtenwald said, “the better way to slow traffic down is to implement traffic calming measures….”

“The way the road is built it’s a very wide arterial and the four travel lanes and center turning lane– I think it just has a tendency for folks to go a bit faster,” said La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat.

After the neighbors handed in their petition, the city council agreed to some of their requests. The only idea that was not implemented was rerouting the semis because of the impact on other main streets.

“We really tried to be as comprehensive as we could, with the physical changes to the roadway, the signal changes and then, the speed limit to really have it [as] the best of both worlds. Still have it [as] a main arterial for folks to get north/south but also to reduce the impacts [to] the neighbors and the people [who] live along it,” Kabat said.

Kabat said the time to implement additional calming measures would be during a larger reconstruction project. Since the city has been repaving sections, it isn’t necessarily feasible now, but could be in time.

“I do think we should look at ways to perhaps narrow the lanes, add more green trees and landscaping perhaps, to look at other ways for walking and biking,” Kabat said.

The amount of cars passing through on Losey has decreased over time, according to the city engineer’s letter of recommendation. Turtenwald said the city could consider reducing the number of lanes, which Kabat agrees with down the line.

“That’s something that I think the city will look at in the future,” Kabat said.

For now, the speed limit isn’t changing. While some may be looking for it to turn back to 30, the changes the city made to Losey was all about keeping it as a main thoroughfare while meeting the needs of those who live here.

If there would be an effort to change the speed limit back, Mayor Kabat said that would have to come from city council members. However, he hasn’t heard of any discussion about that.