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Report: Speed limit increase beneficial

Public Works director's November study sees traffic speeds staying stable with new 30-mph limit.

April 26, 2011|By Barbara Diamond, coastlinepilot@latimes.com

A state law that allows speeders to set the speed limit had City Council members shaking their heads last week after a review of a speed limit increase.

Under the state law, if 85% of the drivers on a given street are driving at or below a given speed, then limits are set at the nearest 5 mph, with some wiggle room allowed for special conditions.

"How do I say how angry this makes me?" asked Mayor Pro Tem Jane Egly. "It makes no sense if 85% go over the speed limit, we have to increase it."

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If drivers are clocked at 47 miles per hour, the speed limit can be set at 45 miles mph. One mile an hour faster and the limit can go up to 50 mph, said Public Works Director Steve May, who was making a report on the effects of a speed limit increase last year on Bluebird Canyon Drive.

The speed limit was raised in March 2010 from 25 mph to 30 mph.

May said circumstances, including residential development, dictated that he recommend 30 miles per hour, rather than 35 miles per hour on that roadway.

"Thirty miles per hour is a reasonable speed for the conditions," May said. "When speed limits are set arbitrarily, people tend to ignore them all together.

The state law provides a rationale for limits, May said.

"If speed limits are set too low — and I have seen it happen — two driver will obey the limit and everyone else will drive around them and then we have a really dangerous situation," May said. "They do it on Laguna Canyon Road and other streets all the time."

A second study in November, showed no increase in speeds since the limit was raised.

"That's baloney," said City Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson. "People fly through there."

One benefit of the increased speed limit was the city's ability to use radar to enforce the limit on Bluebird Canyon. A speed limit below 30 mph negates the radar wagon for enforcement, which means police presence, which is costly.

"We want more enforcement," said Mayor Toni Iseman.

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