Road Safety, Speed Limit Increases on Schizophrenic T-Committee Agenda

View Speed Limit Increases, LA City Council 11/10/10 in a larger map

At this point, you have to feel bad for the City Council when it comes to the issue of raising speed limits. Despite the pleas from community groups and road users, the Council feels stuck when the LAPD and state law are telling them that the benefits of raising the limits on certain local roads outweigh the costs. As we’ve covered in the past, state law requires that every seven years municipalities that use radar to enforce speed limits do speed surveys and adjust the speed limit to the eighty-fifth percentile.

Efforts to change the state law have run in to opposition from the California Highway Patrol, AAA and other speeding traffic advocates and have never escaped one of Asm. Mike Eng’s transportation committee hearing. Thus, this Wednesday, the City Council Transportation Committee is faced with the sad task of voting on whether to increase speed limits on five streets in the Valley. You can read the full list of proposed increases on the agenda, or visit my Google map above to see what local streets are due for a bump in car traffic speed.

Ironically, listed right after the increases on the agenda is a report from the LADOT on their plans pedestrian safety applications for federal “Highway Safety Improvement Projects” funds.  In an effort to be more involved in project planning in their districts, Council Members Bill Rosendahl and Bernard Parks asked LADOT to continue to update the Council throughout the application process.

Most of the projects listed are to install traffic lights or widen sidewalks.  One is a road widening in the name of “congestion relief.”  Three others are actually more interesting and complex projects that might one day be responsible for maintaining or lowering a speed limit in the future.  Not coincidentally, two of those three projects are in Parks’ and Rosendahl’s districts.

Standing at the intersection of 11th Ave and 48th Street, looking east.
Standing in the intersection of 11th Ave and 48th Street, looking east. Looks like a good candidate for a diet.

The first is in Parks’ South Los Angeles District.  The project would cost $750,000 and the city is asking for $675,000 of those funds.  What make it interesting is that the LADOT is proposing a road diet and bike lanes for 48th Street between Normandie and the city limits as well as a two-way left turn lane at 48th and 11th. Another road diet? This is the third time this year we’re discussing Road Diets and LADOT in the same breath. in addition to the “famous” diet on Wilbur Avenue in the valley, there was also a diet on James M. Wood Boulevard.

The second highlighted project falls in Jan Perry’s District along the Central Avenue Corridor Project between Slauson and Washington Boulevard.  The city is asking for over $800,000 to widen sidewalks and improve pedestrian crossings at ten intersections along Central Avenue.  Bulbouts, smart crosswalks, streetscaping…it sounds like the CRA, the sponsor for the project, is trying to “Portlandize” this slice of South L.A. with the goal of making pedestrian’s lives a little safer and encouraging more people to use transit.

The third project that works outside the box is in Bill Rosendahl’s 11th Council District.  The project would basically recreate the sidewalk along a stretch of Entrada Avenue and identify and improve the best crossings along the road.  The project has a low budget of $1 million, and city is hoping the federal government will pitch in 90% of those funds.

Poor Paul Koretz.  He’s stuck with the road widening project as the soul applicant for his District.

All in all, the LADOT’s proposed list of federal grant applications looks pretty good.  Of course, a list of projects is only as good as their applications.  Hopefully, LADOT (and its partners with the Community Redevelopment Agency and Bureau of Street Services) can bring home the bacon and make these corridors and intersections a better place to live, play and walk.

  • snark

    The widest councilman needs the widest roads?

  • Looking at the agenda, none of the proposals to increase speed limits, or widen roads, have had community impact statements submitted. I’m not sure whether it’s required to consider the effect of these changes on the local neighborhood, but it seems like a pretty big oversight to me.

  • Regarding this:

    “[S]tate law requires that every seven years municipalities that use radar to enforce speed limits do speed surveys and adjust the speed limit to the eighty-fifth percentile.”

    I have to say this:
    If the eighty fifth percentile of drivers are speeding on a given road, why aren’t we using engineering to address that issue? If a road is engineered for speeds well below the posted limit, this wouldn’t be an issue. It is possible to re-orient a road around slower speeds. Once a proper re-orientation is done there are often benefits, like raised property values, improved safety (less crashes and less deadly or injurious crashes), overall traffic flow improvements (no bunching at choke points), and reduced noise levels.

    This is not universally true, but on many of Los Angeles’ streets, there is an overabundance of roadway. This leads to speeding and other reckless driver behavior. Lowering the speed limits is not the true issue – it is the design of our roadways that induce drivers to speed.

  • “It is possible to re-orient a road around slower speeds”

    Wouldn’t it be more cost effective/revenue generating to just lower the speed limits. Sure there are other reasons to put roads on a diet, but all around speeds need to decrease.

  • statsdude

    Hey Dude,
    It’s not that simple. In order to use radar to enforce speed limits, speed surveys must be completed. The 15th fastest car of 100 sets the speed limit for enforcement.

    Problem. With vagaries of tire pressure and speedometers, the local police often don’t enforce speed limits unless someone is going 7-10 mph over the speed limit.

    So seven years later, when the next speed survey happens, that 15th fastest driver is now going 7-10 mph faster. so speed limits continue to go up every time there is a speed survey.

  • roadblock

    what’s up with the lazy cops? You don’t need a radar to calculate a speeder. You just need a stop watch and a visual start and stop point cue and the ability to do basic math…. speeder passes landmark A at point in time X then crosses landmark B at point in time Z…. etc.

  • Chris L


    Because posted signs and enforcement don’t work. People tend to drive the speed that “feels right” on a given road. With the W-I-D-E streets the Los Angeles loves so much, drivers are going to speed.

    Josef is absolutely correct: the speed limits are not the true issue. The issue is that LADOT engineers their roads for speed. If we want to slow cars down we need things like:

    – Narrower streets (or more pavement given over to bikes)
    – Bulb outs
    – More tree-lined medians

    When a street feels cozier, drivers slow down.

  • You know the cheapest way to re-engineer a toad for slower speeds?

    Potholes. Lots of potholes.

  • Roadblock, the VASCAR model (stopwatching cars that cross fixed points) may work in other states, but it’s not used as much here. The other reason is that many speeders know they can get away with it, because of how long it takes for our court system to adjudicate anything. As I’ve posted before, with extensions, night court arraignment, trial by declaration, and trial de novo, you are sometimes looking at one full year from the date the incident happened to the date of a trial in court. In that one year, the officer could have been transferred, promoted, or retired; a more urgent call could have happened that day; or murders might have spiked and reassignments occurred. Don’t think that violators don’t know how bogged down our court system is, and how to game the system – this is clearly discussed on many motorist enthusiast blogs.

  • Jass, good (and funny) point. Though to be fair, I suppose that just passes the cost onto the car-driving public in the form of higher repairs and worse fuel economy, onto the bus operators for the same reason, and the bike riders who dodge the potholes at their own peril.

  • Chris L


    Yes! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Its nice that the satellite cities like Santa Monica and Long Beach get it and have made things like bulbouts part of their street improvement vocabulary. I’d love to see LADOT follow suit…they are falling WAY behind.


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