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Controversy to Increase Speed Limits in the Valley Continues

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Three streets are under consideration for speed limit increases | View Speed Limit Increases in The Valley in a larger map

The proposal to increase speed limits on two Valley streets was stalled by the City Council's Transportation committee this afternoon after concerns were brought up by the public and politicians alike. "I've got serious concerns with moving this forward," stated Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district includes the two streets in question, Riverside Drive and Chandler Boulevard, which could be raised to 40 and 45 miles per hour, respectively.

Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district also includes the streets at different points felt the same. "In a broader sense, this is a challenge to all of us on council because of state law that limits the ability of police to use radar," he said, referencing a state law that requires cities seeking the legal use of radar enforcement to survey street speeds and set the limit at the 85th percentile.

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For radar enforced roads, speed surveys must be done every seven years (there is a one-time three-year extension). Once the time limit expires for a street, police officers cannot use radar and it is a policy of the LAPD to not use other dangerous techniques such as matching speed to catch drivers. As for Riverside and Chandler, it is no longer legal for police to use radar until the new speed limits are set.

LAPD officer Troy Williams opined that there is a misconception in the public dialogue with the issue. The speeds are already raised because that's what people are already doing.

Traffic Engineer Brian Gallagher added that one study concluded that drivers are going to drive the limit they're comfortable with, regardless of posted limits. The study also found that if you set the posted limit not at what people are comfortable with, it increases accidents.

However, activist Stephen Box believes this approach is outdated. "We're pursuing a 50-year-old paradigm. It's an old paradigm with one tool in the tool box," he told the committee during public comment. "We've debated the science and the opinion. We simply ask you to embrace a philsophy of safety. Let's accept the fact that this is a flawed process."

Box, along with Dorothy Le of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition said there is another option, which city staff never brought up: traffic calming. "Santa Monica has been able to slow some streets down using similar policies,' noted Le of techniques like road diets, bulb outs and traffic circles.

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The proposals for the two streets were continued to committee's next meeting on February 10th. A request to increase and decrease portions of Beverly Glen Boulevard in Sherman Oaks to formalize the speed limit to 30 miles per hour was approved.