By Pat ShermanThe La Jolla Traffic and Transportation Board (T&T) has opposed a request by the city to increase the speed limit from 25 to 35 miles-per-hour on Nautilus Street, between West Muirlands Drive and Fay Avenue.
Checking with a city traffic analyst, T&T board member Cindy Thorsen found that during the past five years there were 18 accidents along this seven-block stretch, which includes MuirlandsMiddle School. There were also 57 tickets issued, the majority of them for speeding.
“All of us have to turn left or right into our streets,” Thorsen said. “I can’t make a turn at 35 miles per hour. You have to slow down.”
People often use Nautilus Street as shortcut to access La Jolla from Pacific Beach.
“It’s hard to get in and out of La Jolla, but allowing people to keep exceeding safe speeds isn’t the answer,” Thorsen said. “People are just going to have to be patient.”
Gary Pence, a senior traffic engineer with the city of San Diego, said a speed limit survey required every seven years by the state found that 85 percent of the average 11,425 vehicles traveling east and west along this stretch each day moved at an average of 36 miles-per-hour.
Pence said the current speed limit of 25 is unenforceable by radar. By law, to use radar the posted speed limit must be at or greater than what 85 percent of reasonably safe motorists travel, given prevailing road conditions.
“Otherwise, it becomes a speed trap,” he said.
Pence said police can still ticket motorists by pacing (or driving behind them at the same speed). When school is in session, the speed limit near Muirlands Middle School will remain 25, he noted.
Thorsen said she believes increasing the speed limit would create a speed trap that would largely ensnare local residents.
“To me it’s just a bureaucratic advantage,” she said. “It’s not the people driving the (36 mile-per- hour) average that concerns us. Those aren’t the people who are abusing it.”
The La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) has the final say on the proposed increase, though typically the LJCPA and city defer to T&T’s decision.
“We’re not going to pick a fight with the community if they’re adamantly opposed to (an increase),” Pence said.
T&T did approve a speed limit increase from 25 to 35 miles-per-hour along La Scenic Drive North, from La Jolla Village Drive to where at median ends near St. Anthony Orthodox Church. T&T also approved the addition of a four-way stop sign at the intersection of Draper Avenue and Westbourne Street, near La Jolla High School (a two-way stop currently exists there).
Pence said the speed limit increase should take effect within 30 to 60 days and the stop sign will be added in about a month.