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Cracking down on Mission Street speeders not easy, police say
Dear Street Smarts, Q: In response to the suggestions on how to deal with Mission Street problem, one major problem was not mentioned. Speeding is rampant with zero police enforcement. Since Measure H was heavily pushed and passed with the promise of more police officers, why has that not come to fruition? Since we have only gotten "rent a cops" from First Alarm out of Measure H funds, is there some way they could help with traffic enforcement? Pedestrian and cyclist safety are given consideration in cities that evolve with population growth. Right now Mission Street is headed towards becoming a full force freeway unless major changes are made. Twenty years ago, one could ride a bike on Mission Street. Now that is a very scary ordeal. Looking the other way will do nothing to solve the problems. Have a great day, Kelly Newman, Santa Cruz A: Santa Cruz Police officers are out there enforcing traffic laws; however, laws surrounding enforcing speed on Mission Street are tying the department's hands. “The lack of police enforcement for speed on Mission Street is not due to police department inattention,” said Deputy Chief Steve Clark. “In 2003, Caltrans started work to renew the 'Engineering Traffic Survey' for Mission Street between Chestnut and the city limits. That survey revealed the necessity to raise posted speed limits from 25 mph to 30 mph in several segments of Mission Street.” Not raising the posted speed limit would create an illegal speed trap for using radar enforcement practices, he said. Speed limits on roads and highways are based on the 85th percentile speed of free-flowing traffic. That is called the safe speed. Since the safe speed for Mission is above the posted 25 mph, officers cannot use radar to enforce traffic laws there, Clark explained. In recent years, public works has conducted speed surveys around town and the city has been raising speed limits on certain street segments. Morrissey between Highway 1 and Soquel Avenue is one example. In regard to Mission Street, back in 2003, “the city council objected to raising the posted speed limit,” Clark said. “As such, new speeds were not posted and Caltrans did not complete the survey.” For Caltrans to perform a new survey, it requires the city to raise posted speed limits based on recommendations, according to Clark and Susana Cruz of Caltrans. Learn more about the setting of speed limits by visiting www.dot.ca.gov and typing "Realistic Speed Zoning" into the search field. If you want to give police officers the tools they need to crack down on speeders on Mission Street, write to your city council representative and encourage him or her to support raising the posted speed limit. Meanwhile, Street Smarts is working on a similar speed-based topic for Highway 17. Do you think the speed limit should be raised from the current 50 mph speed limit posting through the mountainous portion of the highway on both sides of the county line? With recent improvements along the highway, a higher speed limit may be warranted. In my experience, motorists already travel an average of 60 mph through that segment , in good conditions, of course. Stay tuned.