The speed limit on Ortega Highway won’t increase by 5 mph after all if the City Council has any say about it.
The council came “this close” to approving a 5 mph increase between La Novia Avenue and Via Cordova Tuesday night but was persuaded by many emails and visitors at the meeting to balk.
Resident Gila Jones noted that while the city has plans to put in a traffic signal at Via Cordova, that won’t solve all the problems.
“There are nine other streets beside Via Cordova – I am one of those people who live on those streets,” she said. “Turning onto Ortega onto any of the unsignaled streets is already extremely dangerous. Please do not raise the limit on Ortega Highway.”
Jim Ross, acting public works director, said it wasn’t completely clear who sets the speed limit on Ortega Highway, the city or the state, because Orega is a state highway. He said he would research the matter and come back to the council.
Under the law, when an agency conducts a speed survey and finds out that 85 percent of the people are driving at least 5 mph over the speed limit, the signage has to change, Ross said. Otherwise, speeders may be able to successfully fight their tickets in court.
Ross said the Caltrans is set to conduct a speed study of its own next year, and each speed study is good for seven years. So the Orange County Sheriff’s Department can successfully fine speeders for at least another year.
Resident Mark Speros said Caltrans doesn’t necessarily have his confidence.
“This is trying to preserve the nature of San Juan Capistrano versus the people who see us as a pipeline to the freeway. I hope you mark a line in the sand for what makes sense to our residents,” he said.
The city received 11 emails on the subject. Most complained that traffic already moves too fast, and a higher speed limit would just encourage everyone to drive even faster, making an already unsafe situation worse.
"In my view, we should leave it at 40," said Councilman Roy Byrnes. "We call this kicking the can down the road."
Councilman Sam Allevato agreed. "It’s on their dime," he said, referring to the state. "They should tell us what the speed limit is."