Monday, December 22, 2008

I can't drive 35

Our back yard is separated by a fence, some shrubbery, and a sidewalk from Rohnert Park Expressway, our fair city's primary east-west traffic artery.

Since the dawn of time — or at least, since I first moved here in 1977 — the speed limit on Expressway has been 35 miles per hour. This has been a source of undying frustration for many of us who live here, because (a) practically no one drives 35 on Expressway, and (b) there's no sound reason to do so — it's a four-lane divided thoroughfare with no direct residential frontage.

Wonder of wonders: Sometime in the last week, the speed limit changed to 40.

From what I've been able to determine through research, the city finally succumbed to a federal statute that prohibits municipalities from setting unreasonably low speed limits in order to create speed traps. That has definitely been the case on Expressway, where a driveway into the main police station is a frequent hideout for officers armed with radar scopes.

A survey indicated that more than 85% of the traffic on Expressway traveled in excess of the posted 35 — which, under the aforementioned law, demonstrates that the speed limit is lower than necessary. In order not to lose federal transportation funds, the City of Rohnert Park was obligated to revisit the speed limit on Expressway, and revise it upward.

So, up to 40 it went.

Personally, I think a limit of 45 might have made even better sense. But I'll gratefully accept the extra five miles per hour.

Of course, the city found a way to make up at least some portion of the difference. The eastern end of Expressway, which travels out of the residential area into undeveloped space behind Sonoma State University, has always been unsigned, meaning that the legal limit was a default 55.

It's now posted at 45.

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