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Petition urges big speed limit drop in Newport Coast, but city says it’s unlikely

Petition urges big speed limit drop in Newport Coast, but city says it’s unlikely
Cars travel on San Joaquin Hills Road between Ridge Park Road and Newport Coast Drive in Newport Coast on Thursday. (Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

A neighborhood effort to dramatically bring down the speed limits on the main roads through Newport Coast is unlikely to accomplish that, Newport Beach’s traffic engineer says.

An online petition supporting a speed limit drop from 55 mph to 35 mph on San Joaquin Hills Road between Canyon Watch Park and Newport Coast Drive, and from 60 to 35 on Newport Coast Drive between San Joaquin Hills Road and South Pelican Hill Road, had gathered 141 signatures as of Friday — a relatively significant number, said city Traffic Engineer Tony Brine.

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But the city is bound by state law in establishing speed limits, using California Department of Transportation rules for consistency, he said. Essentially, speed limits are set according to a compromise based on how fast motorists typically drive, and dropping the speed limit artificially low — in this case by about 35% to 40% — could be considered a speed trap, he said.

“I think that would be very difficult,” he said.

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The speed reduction zone proposed in the petition covers about three miles, including the Newport Coast Community Center, a shopping center, several residential pockets and Newport Coast Elementary School on Ridge Park Road just off Newport Coast Drive. A 25 mph school zone already exists in that area.

It isn’t clear who started the petition. But several supporters said a speed limit drop is needed for children’s safety.

“Speeds need to be neighborhood-appropriate for the safety of everyone, especially children,” one commenter wrote on the petition’s page at thepetitionsite.com. “How can we as parents let them play outside if we know cars are legally going highway speeds?”

“I have seen numerous close calls involving children, pedestrians, pets. It doesn’t need to be a freeway,” wrote another.

Vehicles travel past a 60 mph speed limit sign on Newport Coast Drive on Thursday.
Vehicles travel past a 60 mph speed limit sign on Newport Coast Drive on Thursday. (Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Police records show 24 vehicle collisions in the area outlined in the petition since 2014. Eighteen of those were near the intersection of Newport Coast Drive and South Pelican Hill Road, a visitor-heavy area close to resorts, a golf course and Coast Highway.

Brine said San Joaquin Hills Road and Newport Coast Drive are six-lane roads with relatively light traffic and were designed for the current speeds.

He said the city occasionally gets requests to reduce speed limits, but nothing this defined.

Brine said residents are welcome to write to the city, and staff will collect specific area traffic data.

The city typically reviews posted speed limits every seven years, and the last citywide study was in 2011, making now a reasonable time to have another look at Newport Coast, he said.

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