Dear Street Smarts,
Q: I’ve noticed going southbound Highway 17, right before the Mount Hermon exit, the 65 mph speed limit is too fast! There is a hill that curves before the exit there. If you are driving 65, your car most definitely feels out of control. I wonder how many accidents have happened here? And we all know folks drive faster than the actual posted speed limit. The speed limit after is soon lowered to 55 but it still feels unsafe from this point I mention up to that lowered 55 point. Has anyone ever mentioned this or looked into it?
Susan Eisenman, Santa Cruz
A: “The maximum speed limit for State Route 17 is statutorily set at 65 mph per the
California Vehicle Code,” said Roger Barnes, Caltrans transportation engineer for traffic management, while specifically siting section 22349.
To lower the speed limit there – and anywhere else – it would require a traffic survey to justify the change and allow it to be enforced with the use of radar, Barnes said. This lower speed limit is called prima facie speed, he said.
For the area of Highway 17 at Mount Hermon, an April 1996 Caltrans survey “determine that the maximum speed limit of 65 mph was appropriate to facilitate the orderly movement of traffic,” said Barnes.
What’s more, a subsequent “Engineering &Traffic Survey” in March 2006 set into place the speed limits of 55 mph between mile markers 6.7 and 7.55; a 50 mph maximum speed was established for the area between post miles 7.55 and 12.55, he added.
“Caltrans is required to resurvey prima facie speed limits at seven and ten year intervals.,” said Barnes. “The speed limits on State Route17 will be evaluated once again at the seven year interval.”
That’ll be March 2013, he said.
Lowering the speed limit in the area of post miles 6.7 and 12.55 would require a new survey, continued Barnes.
“Due to recent changes in the Engineering & Traffic Survey requirements, this could result in an increase of the current 50 and 55 mph speed limits,” he said.
The survey was changed to help set speed limits that are uniform, rational and enforceable, Barnes said. The two new standards implemented in section 2B.13 of the California MUTCD July 1, 2009 are:
- The speed limit shall be established at the nearest 5 mph increment of the 85th percentile.
- If the 5 mph reduction is applied, the Engineering & Traffic Survey shall document in writing the conditions and justification for the reduced speed limit and be approved by a registered civil or traffic engineer.