Yolo County’s public works department suggested raising the speed limits on 14 county roads due to recent surveys that showed increased driving speeds. It was found that drivers were driving at 48 to 49 miles per hour (mph) on Russell Boulevard, which has a 35 mph speed limit. The Yolo County Board of Supervisors accepted 10 of the 14 recommendations.
The four roads that will be in review include County Road 21A between State Highway 16 and half a mile west of State Highway 16 in Esparto, County Road 32 between State Highway 505 and east of Yolo County Housing in Winters, Russell Boulevard between the Davis city limits and County Road 98 and County Road 98 between 300 feet south of Hutchinson Drive and Russell Boulevard.
The board found that the four specified roads have circumstances under which increased traffic speeds would endanger the safety of drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists, especially since the roads are traveled by people from churches, schools and residences.
In a statement, Supervisor Don Saylor said the board passed a motion to direct staff to retain the existing posted speed limits in these areas. The board also recommended staff continue to study the traffic situation over the next year, including possible traffic-calming measures and pursue state law change to address the issues raised in the review. Recommendations also include examining the school zone and studying issues of behaviors with speed limit changes.
Supervisors want the staff to return in less than a year with an update on safety and liability issues, while providing a strategy of necessary measures to reduce speed and verify that posted speed limit signs are visible on these roads.
“This [speed limit] change would apply to Russell Boulevard from city limits west to County Road 98 where the first stop sign is located,” said Yolo County Assistant Director for Public Works Panos Kokkas. “From there on the speed will become 55 mph.”
Kokkas said changing a speed limit is a two-step process. First, the public works department presents the recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. Then, the following meeting will be to make a decision and to inform the public, which will take place next Tuesday.
Speed limits are established every seven years. After seven years, the public works department has to take an Engineering and Traffic Survey (E&TS) to see the speed people drive.
“The California Vehicle Code (CVC) and the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) govern the criteria for establishment of speed limits,” said Director of the Planning and Public Works Department John Bencomo, in their agenda for Oct. 25. “The CVC sets the basic speed limit for two-lane, undivided highways at 55 mph. The CVC further provides the ability for local government to set zones with lower speed limits based on an Engineering and Traffic Survey.”
According to Kokkas, the California Department of Transportation counts all the vehicles on the road and looks at what type of vehicles there are and how fast they’re going. Based off of that information, the speed in the 85th percentile is used to determine the speed limit.
“The 85th percentile is supposed to be the ones driving carefully, reasonably and normally,” Kokkas said. “This dictates what the speed of the road should be.”
Before July 2009, California law stated that speed limits have to be rounded down to the nearest five miles based on the 85th percentile’s speed. As of now, it states the speed limit has to be rounded up to the nearest five miles of the 85th percentile’s speed.
“If the 85th percentile is 38 mph, then the posted speed would be rounded up to 40 mph with the option to reduce it by an additional 5 mph to 35 mph if justified by an E&TS,” Bencomo said in the agenda.
Amid concerns increasing the speed limit will encourage drivers to drive even faster, Kokkas said based on national data, people will drive the same speed despite raised speed limits since it is relative to the driving conditions.
“What we do is set by the Department of Transportation inducted by the state of California,” Kokkas said. “We’re not doing anything willy-nilly; we have to follow specific criteria and go to the elected board who verify it.”
CLAIRE TAN can be reached at email@example.com.