Drivers may soon be able to step harder on the accelerator, if speed limits are raised five miles per hour.
Davis City Council approved a one-year pilot project at their Jan. 19 meeting that raises speed limits from 25 to 30 mph in three places: J Street between East Eighth Street and Covell Boulevard, Anderson Road between Covell Boulevard and Corona Drive and Sycamore Lane between Antelope Avenue and the north city limit.
The pilot project will test if Davis drivers will drive faster as a result of the speed change. This was not true for other cities, according to Senior Civil Engineer Roxanne Namazi.
The change will allow police to use electronic devices to gauge drivers’ speed.
Though not all councilmembers were completely satisfied with the ordinance, it passed.
Councilmember Sue Greenwald believes the situation is a reoccurring problem.
“Public Works continues to ask to raise speed limits,” Greenwald said at the meeting. “The bottom line is the public doesn’t like this. I would hate for the limit to be raised without it serving a function.”
Robert Clarke, Davis’ interim Public Works director, said the measure serves a function for the police, and certain roads were chosen based on the number of received complaints.
Councilmember Stephen Souza suggested choosing another segment in town instead of the J Street location for a pilot project because of the close vicinity to Waldorf Elementary School.
Mayor Pro Tempore Don Saylor found the ordinance problematic because of its proximity to the school.
“I think we want to slow down traffic,” Saylor said. “People are driving too fast on J Street past the school. I’d rather see an decreased speed limit because of the presence of children.”
The California Vehicle Code and the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) govern the criteria for establishment of speed limits. Speed limits, when enforced by radar or other electronic devices, are subject to justification by an Engineering and Traffic Survey, which is required at least once every five years to justify the posted speed limits. If a street segment does not have a current Engineering and Traffic Survey, use of radar is not permitted. Areas with radars constitute a Speed Trap, and violations here will generally be dismissed in court. The Police Department is not permitted to use radars in Speed Traps, making it very difficult to provide enforcement except in occasional extreme speeding violations.
Davis Police Chief Landy Black said rounding to the nearest fifth speed increment to determine an appropriate speed limit is much easier than a bumper to bumper pacing of cars’ speeds. This method will allow officers to resume enforcement on these street segments with the use of radar or other electronic devices.
“Segments with critical speeds give the police department the ability to do enforcement.” Black said. “Speeds are maintained by drivers at lower levels.”
Recent revisions to the MUTCD changed the State Law related to establishing speed limits on streets requiring a traffic survey. The new State Law requires speed limits to be rounded to the nearest five mph of the critical speed, or 85th percentile, increment with the option to reduce the speed limits an additional five mph where conditions not readily apparent to the driver exist.
Previously, speed limits were rounded down to the nearest fifth increment. As a result of these revisions to the State Law, 66 street segments in Davis are out of compliance and posted speed limits must be raised on all these segments to be enforceable by radar.
Clarke said the project will be ready to start in March. Because of the great number of concerns with the pilot project, Councilmember Lamar Heystek suggested a report be put together soon to test the project’s effectiveness. City staff will check back with City Council in six months with data on the project rather than the original one year.
These segments will be evaluated with a traffic study where critical speeds, crash history and other factors will be evaluated.
A change of speed limits will require six sign replacements for a total cost of about $1,000. This cost can be accommodated within the Fiscal Year 2009-2010 Transportation Signing and Striping Program budget.
Another issue is the speed limit on 2nd Street from a point 2,500 feet west of Mace Boulevard to Mace Boulevard. The proposal reduces the speed limit from 45 to 35 mph on segment boundaries on 2nd Street between Pole Line Road and Mace Boulevard. Two new signs are needed for an estimated total cost of $300.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached email@example.com.