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Newest Attempt to Give Cities Power Over Speed Limits Gains Ground in Sacramento

It's hardly a state secret that California's speed limit laws are designed to increase traffic speed at the expense of communities and urban design. AB 529, a hot piece of legislation by Assemblyman Mike Gatto that already quietly cleared the State Assembly, seeks to give communities a little more leeway in setting local speed limits.  The Senate has yet to assign the bill to committee, but Senate Transportation Committee staff have told me they're expecting it "any day now."

While campaigning last year, Gatto says he was repeatedly asked to do something about speed limits, which has been a major issue throughout both Valleys and Glendale.  But Gatto didn't need much urging to take up this issue, "I was born and raised in my district and I know there are speeding problems in the streets," he told Streetsblog in an interview last week.

State law involving how speed limits tilted even more towards maximizing car travel speed in 2004, often times at the expense of creating and maintaining roads that are safe to live and walk on.  Before that, cities could set speed limits within a range of the speed at which traffic traveled on a street.  After the 2004 change in law however, cities have been forced to round up their speed limits starting at the eighty-fifth percent of car travel speeds, which some drivers treat as permission to drive even faster. AB 529 gives local governments the option to round speed limits down after a traffic survey, which will slow the process of escalating limits on roads unsuited to higher speeds.

In other words, speeders won't have as much leeway to set speed limits under Gatto's legislation as they currently do.  AB 529 isn't as strong as past pieces of legislation, such as A.B. 766, then-Assemblyman Paul Krekorian's "Safe Streets" legislation in 2009.  But that's one reason that no groups are opposing AB 529, not even AAA.  While "Safe Streets" stalled in committee, A.B. 529 was unanimously passed by the Assembly.

Which isn't to say that Gatto expects his legislation to be passed as smoothly in the Senate as it was the Assembly.  The Assemblyman expects "a little bit of a battle" in the other chamber, but does expect it to ultimately pass.

“I promised residents that I would do something about those who speed through our streets,” says Gatto, “and I will continue to work hard to address this problem.”

Supporting AB 529 are the Glendale Police Department, City of Glendale, Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), City of Santa Rosa, League of California Cities, and the City of Long Beach.  Gatto's office supplied a fact sheet for the legislation, that can be found here.

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