ATWATER -- Drivers will soon have to turn off the autopilot and learn some new speed limits around town -- both faster and slower.
During Monday's meeting, the City Council passed changes to eight speed limits on roadways including Avenue One, Avenue Two, Bell Drive, Commerce Avenue, First Street, Fifth Street and Wallace Street.
Other streets, including Bellevue Road, Fruitland Avenue and Santa Fe Drive, were reviewed by staff, but will remain at the same speed.
However, Fruitland Avenue will be re-examined during an Oct. 25 meeting for possible changes.
Residents and the council are aware that there have been issues with speeding on that stretch of road, said Assistant City Manager Stan Feathers. Staff will resurvey the road to see if a speed change is needed.
The adjusted speed limits will go into effect immediately after the new signs go up, he said. The alterations are needed to improve the safe, efficient flow of traffic in the city.
"You need to periodically do these surveys to evaluate traffic issues in the community," Feathers said. "The traffic conditions change over time."
The changes will have little fiscal impact, he said. Money for the project will come from the Gas Tax Street Improvement Fund.
One new speed sign costs about $50, according to a report submitted by City Engineer Joe Hollstein. If new hardware, posts and cement are needed, the cost could be about $100 a sign.
But the safety improvements are well worth the minimal cost, said Chief Richard Hawthorne of the Atwater Police Department.
"If we wish to enforce the vehicle code, this is something that's required," he said.
Speed limits are required to be periodically surveyed, Hawthorne added. Properly updating speed signs allows the police department to use radar and lidar (light detection and ranging) equipment when making speeding stops, instead of pacing vehicles, which is much less efficient.
Since the first of the year, there have been 284 traffic accidents in Atwater. The police department has issued 92 citations for speed, Hawthorne said.
In comparison, there have been 73 traffic accidents in the nearby city of Livingston so far this year, according to department records. The police department has issued 46 speeding citations during that time.
Down the road, from the beginning of the year through August, there have been 1,262 traffic accidents in Merced, said Sgt. Jay Struble of the Merced Police Department. The department has issued 1,334 speeding citations during that period.
The populations may vary, but all three cities are continually looking for ways to improve traffic conditions.
Atwater speed limits change
|Street||From||To||Old limit||New limit|
|Avenue One||Buhach||East city limit||55 mph||45 mph|
|Avenue Two||Buhach||East city limit||55 mph||45 mph|
|Bell Drive||Applegate||West city limit||35 mph||45 mph|
|Bellevue Road||Shaffer||Winton||40 mph||40 mph|
|Commerce Ave.||Applegate||Atwater Drain||30 mph||40 mph|
|Commerce Ave.||Giannini||Atwater Drain||40 mph||45 mph|
|First Street||Atwater||Linden||35 mph||30 mph|
|Fifth Street||Fir||Bellevue||35 mph||25 mph|
|Fruitland Ave.||Shaffer||Winton||35 mph||35 mph|
|Santa Fe Drive||West city limit||East city limit||50 mph||50 mph|
|Wallace Street||Santa Fe||Buhach||55 mph||40 mph|
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.