Maintaining Philo’s 30mph
by Mark Scaramella, January 26, 2017
At last Wednesday night's Community Services District board meeting, Philo resident David Severn told the board about Caltrans plans to raise the speed limit in Philo. After discussing the background of the situation, all four board members present agreed that they would prefer that the limit should be left at 30 mph, although they liked the idea of lowering the speed limit on the approaches to 45mph. They then voted to send a letter to the Board of Supervisors and Caltrans expressing the Valley's concerned about traffic safety in Philo...
To: Mendocino County Board of Supervisors and Caltrans District 1
January 19, 2017
Dear Supervisors and Caltrans,
Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the proposed changes to the speed limit in Philo, California.
As you may know the current speed limit was set in the aftermath of a tragic accident in which a child was killed and a mother seriously injured while attempting to cross the street in downtown Philo. At that time Caltrans held a well-attended public hearing in Philo where Caltrans heard about the unique traffic safety issues in Philo and subsequently set the current 30mph speed limit.
Although traffic and surrounding conditions in downtown Philo have changed somewhat since that time, there are still a number of current and future safety hazards which should be considered over and above the simple fact that some drivers do not observe the posted speed limit as apparently observed in the latest Caltrans speed zone survey. These hazards include: school buses picking up and dropping off schoolchildren in the morning and afternoon, new tasting rooms in the downtown area with associated pedestrians, poor visibility entering the town in either direction, southbound vehicles stopping to make left turns into Lemons’ Market, cars parked near the roadway on both sides of the street creating obstacles and restricting maneuvering room, and so on.
In addition, there are new commercial developments planned for the area that will increase traffic and associated hazards, both in Philo and in the approaches to Philo from the north and south.
We appreciate Caltrans installation of radar speed indicators which have certainly helped to reduce speeding through town and we agree that lowering the speed limit to 45mph in the areas of Highway 128 approaching Philo would make the area safer. (However, we have not seen exactly how far that 45mph zone would extend.). But we believe that a corresponding increase in the downtown speed limit would effectively sanction greater speeds through town increasing the risk of another tragic accident.
The current speed limit was set after a public hearing in Philo in response to a high level of public safety concern where Caltrans was able to take a full range of public input. In addition, we are concerned that the proposed changes have not been adequately noticed in the Philo area (with postings at the local stores and Post Office, for example) nor with sufficient advance notice. Therefore, since there is no need to rush into this change, and in light of the spirit of the “public hearing” provision of the vehicle code, we request that no decision be made on any speed limit changes in Philo until after a public hearing in Philo where the concerns of the public can be factored into the decision and proper consideration can be given to future developments in and near town.
Signed, Valerie Hanelt
Chair Anderson Valley Community Services District
On Friday Caltrans traffic safety engineer Clark Davis (who has family connections to Anderson Valley) out of the Caltrans Eureka District 1 office responded surprisingly quickly:
I appreciate your concerns and the info regarding future development in the area of Philo. I will be sure the speed zone engineer reads your email. I would also like to note that the current posted speed in Philo is not enforceable by law. It is by definition a “Speed Trap”. No speed related citations can be written (or at least enforced by the courts). The law is very specific about how the posted speed limit is determined. There is little if any wiggle room. The law(and the courts) require the posted speed to match the speed that 85% of drivers are actually driving, not what we want them to drive. We really do not have a choice in this matter. I know of three ways around this: lots of enforcement (which is entirely up to law enforcement, not Caltrans), changing the law through the state legislature(not a simple task), and traffic calming projects funded through the local government(in this case the County of Mendocino). A responsible local government should not allow development without addressing the traffic impacts of those activities, namely traffic calming projects and pedestrian facilities. Feel free to call me anytime, I like chatting about this topic, and all improvements begin with good communication.
The proposed changes are what would make it legal and enforceable, assuming law enforcement actually enforces it!
By the way, it is my understanding, and I could be mistaken, that the Mendocino County Sherriff’s do not enforce speed on state highways for budgetary reasons. If true, this could be changed by the Board of Supervisors providing some funding for enforcement….
Assistant District Traffic Safety Engineer
Caltrans District 1 Traffic Safety Office
The subject was on the Supervisors agenda (Item 5g) for next Tuesday morning’s meeting.
Agenda Title: Noticed Public Hearing - Presentation Regarding California Department of Transportation Proposed Speed Zone Change, State Route Highway 128, Philo, (Philo Area)
Recommended Action/Motion: Receive presentation regarding California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) proposed speed zone change, State Route Highway 128, Philo, (Philo Area)
Previous Board/Board Committee Actions: Director of Transportation Report submitted at the Board of Supervisors meeting of November 14, 2016 and subsequent communication from Supervisor Hamburg at the aforementioned meeting.
Summary of Request: Conduct a Public Hearing to solicit public comment on the Caltrans proposed speed zone change for State Route Highway 128 in the community of Philo. The proposal is to modify existing zone segments on State Route Highway 128, north and south of Philo, between mile post (MP) 22.10 and MP 23.70. The existing 30 miles per hour (mph) zone would be increased to 35 mph and the half mile segments on each end of the 35 mph zone would be decreased from the current 55 mph to 45 mph.
Caltrans will provide staff to answer questions. Caltrans shall take into consideration the concerns of the public in determining whether to move forward with the proposed speed zone changes.