Signal Hill is raising vehicle speed limits on 17 of its streets from five to 15 miles per hour and lowering speed limits on two street segments, based on a new traffic study approved by the Signal City Council Hill on Tuesday, March 22.
The city studied traffic on 67 street segments through Signal Hill, as required by the California Vehicle Code (CVC) every five years, with the help of traffic consultants WG Zimmerman Engineering.
The study found that on 17 street segments, or about a quarter of those surveyed, 85% of vehicles were traveling at speeds above the current limit of five to 15 miles per hour. According to the CVC, these limits must now be modified to reflect the higher speeds.
According to Public Works Director Thomas Bekele, the city can only adjust measured speeds up to five miles per hour up or down to set the limit based on other factors such as accident history. , road conditions, residential density and the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
Only two segments studied showed vehicles traveling at speeds below those permitted, five miles per hour. The remaining 48 speeds of the street segments studied were approximately equal to the limit, which will therefore remain the same on these sections.
Bekele told council on Tuesday that the city doesn’t have much leeway to maintain current speed limits if 85 out of 100 vehicles on a street segment are traveling faster than what is currently allowed, according to the CVC.
“That’s how fast 85% of vehicles are moving in that specific segment, so it’s based on the data,” Bekele said. “The subjectivity of this one is quite limited, although there are other factors that play into rounding down or rounding up.”
Consultant Bill Zimmerman confirmed that state law requires municipalities to comply with the speed used by the 85th percentile of analyzed traffic.
“We’re kind of stuck with that,” Zimmerman said. “It’s part of the state code. This is part of the federal street funding code.
Council expresses concern over increase in speed limit from 10 to 15 miles per hour
Although most upward speed limit adjustments are five miles per hour, two street segments will increase more.
The southbound speed limit along Walnut Avenue between Hill Street and Alamitos Avenue is increased from 30 to 40 miles per hour, and the speed limit on Temple Avenue between Hill and 21st street is increased by 15 miles per hour from 25 at 40.
Although the council approved an ordinance increasing these speed limits, most members expressed concern, particularly to increase the limit along the Temple Avenue stretch by 15 miles per hour.
Council member Lori Woods wanted to know more about the accident history along this stretch, saying she had heard traffic complaints and “close calls” reported from there.
“My experience is that there is a heavy pedestrian [traffic] on either side,” she added.
Zimmerman replied that 24 accidents have been recorded along this street segment in the past five years, an average of less than five per year, and only one was speed-related.
“There aren’t many accidents that would force us to think seriously about reducing that speed,” he said.
Zimmerman also noted that there were “few pedestrians” listed in the traffic survey, which was conducted in October 2021.
Bekele added that the average vehicle speed on this stretch of Temple Avenue is currently 42 miles per hour, according to the survey, “so cars are already traveling at a higher speed.”
“If we were to change the speed limits outside of this study, it wouldn’t be binding,” Bekele noted. “[Also] it would partially prevent us from getting federal funds.
Woods also asked if the 10-mile-per-hour increase along Walnut Avenue south of Hill Street accounted for planned development of a new nine-acre warehouse.
Zimmerman said no, but the city could conduct a survey in two years rather than wait for the next required study in five years and modify the results of the current traffic study accordingly.
Council member Edward Wilson questioned why the study selected certain streets and whether the police could slow down traffic during the survey.
Zimmerman responded that the streets studied are those registered with the state to receive federal funding and must maintain a steady flow of traffic. Any speed manipulation would invalidate the study.
The 19 total speed limit changes include four on Walnut Avenue, three on California Avenue and two along Orange Avenue, Temple Avenue and Willow Street.
Traffic engineer Jesus Saldana said one of two speed limit reductions — from 45 to 40 miles per hour along Spring Street between Orange and Walnut avenues — makes this stretch consistent with the rest of Spring Street, but it was based on how 85% of the traffic flowed.
“The determining factor of all these changes […] was the 85th percentile,” he said.