Speed limits may change in Irvine

IRVINE — The City Council is considering an ordinance that proposes to raise or lower speed limits along 22 stretches of roadway.

It would cost Irvine $3,500, which would be paid out of its Public Works budget, to install new signs posting the changed speed limits, according to a staff report.

The draft ordinance, based on an annual traffic survey, proposes lowering posted speed limits by 5 mph along eight stretches:

•Westbound Campus Drive between MacArthur Boulevard and Von Karman Avenue;

•Eastbound and westbound Campus between Jamboree Road and Carlson Avenue;

•In both directions on Irvine Center Drive between Jeffrey Road and Orangetree, between Barranca Parkway and the southbound San Diego (405) Freeway, and between Scientific Way and Lake Forest Drive;

•In both directions of Roosevelt Street between Yale Avenue and Jeffrey Road;

•Northbound and southbound Turtle Rock Drive between Campus and Grossmont Street;

•and on Yale in both directions between Winvale Avenue and Walnut Street.

The ordinance would increase the speed limit by 10 mph along two stretches: From 40 mph to 50 mph on southbound California Avenue between Innovation Drive and Theory Street, and from 50 mph to 60 mph on eastbound University Drive between Michelson Drive and the I-405 onramps.

The speed limit would go up 5 mph along a dozen other stretches.

The council did a first reading of the proposed ordinance during its Tuesday session, and directed Senior Transportation Engineer Jim Lizzi to do more research. The council asked him to report back in about six months with a review of specific street segments and intersections.

More research was needed, Mayor Sukhee Kang said.

The traffic survey's results, along with the recommended speed limits changes, were presented on Tuesday.

However, as proposed, the changes to the speed limits would make driving inconsistent along major roadways, some City Council members said.

"Are we not allowed to substitute rational thinking for the Caltrans code if it makes sense?" Mayor Pro Tem Beth Krom said.

The survey looked at 36 road segments and came up with speed limits based on average observed traffic and the Caltrans Policy Directive, which says speed limits should be rounded to the nearest 5 mph, according to Lizzi. However, some major streets and single street loops would change speeds through intersections if the ordinance passed.

For example, California Avenue would increase from 40 mph to 50 mph just between Innovation and Theory, and Turtle Rock Drive would change from 40 to 45 mph in the middle of the street loop.

"Most people drive that loop at a consistent speed," Krom said.

Lizzi defended the survey by saying its recommendations are meant to aid public safety officers in controlling traffic, but he acknowledged that the recommended changes were inconsistent on some streets. He asked the council for specific examples of streets and times of day in order to do more research.

Councilman Steven Choi brought up a stretch of Harvard south of California. A segment of the street goes from 45 mph to 25 mph and back to 45 mph as it passes a senior center.

Choi said he never observed drivers slowing down to 25 mph, but he did see officers waiting in that area to ticket people.

"Even though the intent was good," Choi said, "practically if you observe, I don't know how many older people are walking on the street there."

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