Butte County Supervisor Steve Lambert has arranged a meeting with the Butte County Association of Governments leading the discussion between Cal Trans and members of the City of Gridley’s Administration staff.
Set for next month, the primary topic of concern is the recent State Route 99 speed survey that was based on the 85th percentile methodology. The speed survey was over two years late. The concern is that the Cal Trans delayed speed survey was conducted in a time when zero speed enforcement was conducted because of the necessity to have a speed survey on file with Butte County Court. In past meetings with Chief Price, he has expressed concerns for the public's safety
Chief Price and citizens are concerned with the accuracy of the speed study and that motorists along SR99 in Gridley City limits have been dictating the speed due to the absent speed enforcement from CalTrans late study. "It appears, the commuters have set the speed because we (police department) weren't out there. Motorists tend to go faster when there is no law enforcement presence,”,Chief Price said.
It was discovered, a total of 75 highway surveys out of 150 surveys had expired since November 2014 in the regional Cal Trans District. It is speculated that Gridley’s recent survey was rushed to completion in order to show something done with no current and updated narrative to reflect the current conditions on the highway.
Recent discussions with City of Gridley Staff and citizens reflects the following concerns:
The 85th percentile methodology, which is using the average speed of 85 percent of the motorists to determine the speed limit was done out of expedience without reviewing other safety factors.
There are four bus stops on the highway plus one on Hollis Lane that were ignored.
Motorists set the speed limit because there was little or no traffic enforcement conducted because the study was three years late in its completion. Common sense would seem to dictate that motorists will naturally drive faster than the posted speed limit in the absence of speed enforcement.
The posted 55 mph speed zone is set north of W. Liberty Road instead of south of W. Liberty Road and is a major concern of the police department. There can be significant accidents at the intersection of SR99 and W. Liberty Road.
Motorists driving southbound on SR99 and decelerating to turn east on to Hollis Lane do not have sufficient time to decelerate with the higher speed presently and vehicles following them. With 26 homes on this street, it is important to consider these residents as they leave and enter their street many times a day.
CalTrans maps are misleading as they show Hollis Lane directly across from W. Liberty Road instead of properly situated to the south approximately 50 yards to the south on the map.
Chief Price believes the 55 mph increase should be near Township Road to allow motorists to leave town before speeding up even more. Another mistake in the CalTrans map is the incorrect diagram that SR99 is straight all the way to Township when in fact there exists a noticeable curve there which adds to the dangerous intersection at Township as cars travel 55+ south towards this area. Neither this roadway curve nor the railroad tracks are shown on the underlying speed map that CalTrans has used for years heading south.
Also dangerous is the fact that cars and semi-trucks coming off W. Liberty Road need time to accelerate in order to get out of the way of fast approaching vehicles.
The lack of shoulders and safe turnouts are also a concern by the police department as there are few areas that are safe for officers to safely conduct traffic stops.
Of even greater concern for many is the fact that motorists will be entering town at a much higher speed from the north where often semi-trucks run the first stoplight as children are walking to and from the high school daily before, during lunch and after school.
During the Tuesday, January 16 council meeting it was noted that one-third of the 15 citizens addressing the addition of AM/PM Convenience Market at SR99 and Hazel, had mentioned safety as their big concern on the highway.
"One-third of the citizens’ conversations were invested in community safety. I'm interested in safety," Chief Price said.
Chief Price is arranging a “walk-about” between a Cal Trans representative and Motorcycle Officer Jim Roberts. Officer Roberts has first-hand knowledge on the many dangerous circumstances and situations on SR99 including how dangerous it is when he turns his Harley Davidson around at the City line at Hollis Lane having to slam on his brakes because of the speed of the cars now.
Officer Roberts stated that Hollis Lane's turn lane is not long enough now for the speed of the vehicles approaching to turn from the highway and it doesn’t appear to be any way to extend the turn lane in this area at the present time.
It should have been CalTrans who noticed this in the study rather than not giving any thought to the fact that only one car fits there and if another car tries to pull in they will rear end the first car because of the higher speed pulling in.
Effort should be made to make the W. Liberty intersection safer and give allowance for the vehicles who try to turn with those traveling behind them at 60+ mph. The speed limit sign posted before W. Liberty Road puts motorists in extreme danger and no answer has been given as to why it was moved north. The 55 mph hour sign should minimally be closer to KC Towing after W. Liberty Road once drivers have made their turn onto W. Liberty Road rather than before if not closer to Township Road.
Again, the CalTrans map is in error with the 55 mph sign shown on the map in an incorrect location.
Antiquated mapping instead of using Google Earth by CalTrans makes it difficult to comprehend what they really have in mind for the area but suffice it to say CalTrans has done this area wrong and something needs to be done before we have several tragedies occur on SR 99 in the City limits.
CalTrans did not take into effect the five bus stops located in the increased highway posted speed. The Gridley Unified School District picks children up at five different locations each morning starting at 7:15 a.m., when it is still dark and returns them home each afternoon. School buses have to pull out on the speedway each time.
Chief Price would like to see a productive conversation on the safety for the motorists along Gridley’s SR99 with all the safety concerns addressed. For most, it seems it would be in the best interests of Gridley residents and motorists along the Gridley SSR99 corridor if the speed can return to 45 mph on both ends of Highway 99 entering into town. It should be noted at the north end of town when trucks pull out of Stapleton Spence straight into traffic they are having to deal with much quicker speeds, trying to pull out safely. Trucks are having to illegally pull into the turn lane to pull out onto traffic but are not being cited because they are trying to do the right thing safely. Chief Price shared his concern for consideration of these semi-trucks is necessary in any speed study.
During the November 13, 2017 Planning Commission Meeting Chairman Robert Wise expressed his concern for the increased highway speed with the minutes of the meeting stating, "Chairman Wise expressed concern for the Highway 99 improvements set by CalTrans for the speed limit. Expressed concern with safety of citizens should the speed limits increase remain - suggested options to improve the safety of the corridor. Commissioners discussed changing speed limits back to original or lower. Planning consultant directed to inquire as to who in the city is currently involved in the meetings."