King City doesn't support speed increases

by: BARBARA SHERMAN - TOO FAST OR TOO SLOW? -Local residents and commuters seem to have opposing opinions on the best speed limits for 131st Avenue and Fischer Road.Fischer Road is a crucial link between 131st Avenue and Pacific Highway, but it poses hazards for people trying to pull out from the side streets as the sight distances are extremely limited in some sections.

Washington County owns the road and has fielded requests to both lower and raise the speed limit over the years: Commuters who live on Bull Mountain and use Fischer as a bypass would like to see the speed limit increased, while those who live in Eldorado Villas and King City feel it should be lowered to make it safer.

The issue of raising the speed limit on both Fischer Road and 131st Avenue was raised last fall, with Washington County eventually deciding to keep the status quo for now.

The issue was discussed at the Jan. 28 meeting of Citizen Participation Organization 4K (King City), with people on both sides of the issue speaking out.

King City police Chief Chuck Fessler pointed out that "Fischer Road from 99W to 131st is not a straight line. With the age of the populations on both sides, I think it's a hazard for people to pull out purely from a safety issue based on the population.

"I'm not so concerned about 131st - it is a straight road."

He also pointed out that there are very few accidents on Fischer despite the limited sight distance in many places due to the low speed limit.

At the meeting, a woman in the audience agreed with Fessler, while a man said, "Many people on the south side of Bull Mountain use 131st and Fischer - I think the speed limit is ridiculously slow."

The topics of the speed limit and sight distances on the two streets actually have been bandied about for more than six months, and Washington County in September agreed to a request from Eldorado residents to eliminate some parking spaces on Fischer to the east of their entrance/exit to give drivers better visibility.

Stephen Roberts, communications coordinator for the Washington County Department of Land Use and Transportation, addressed the speed limit issue in a September email to Dan Schauer, CPO coordinator for Oregon State University Extension-Washington County.

"We always strive to balance competing community concerns," Roberts wrote. "We have taken that approach with these recent on-street (on Fischer) parking changes. We evaluated a couple of options, and elected to restrict only the minimal amount of on-street parking that was necessary to establish reasonable sight distance. We believe our response was the best balance of competing interests while addressing a legitimate public safety concern.

"Also, I'd like to be clear regarding the county's position on the posted speed limit on Fischer Road. The current speed limit is 25 mph, which is lower than is customarily found on urban collector roadways. Several residents have requested that the county consider reducing the speed limit to 20 mph. We have consistently advised that the state's process for establishing posted speed limits (which the county must follow) typically calls for measuring actual traffic speeds and then setting the posted speed limit at the approximate 85th percentile speed (the speed that 85 percent of vehicles are actually travelling at or below).

"Our preliminary assessment of the likely results of conducting such a study is that the posted speed would actually increase as a result. Therefore, we have recommended simply sticking with the current 25 mph speed limit, as it seems to achieve the best balance between competing points of view on the appropriate speed limit."

King City City Manager Dave Wells said Feb. 13 that "King City is neutral on increasing the speed limit on 131st, and at the staff level, we are adamantly opposed to increasing the speed limit on Fischer.”

He added, "King City has six street entrances onto Fischer, and none are properly aligned. Increasing the speed would mean more accidents. On the other hand, 131st is almost completely improved, and with the addition of the subdivision, there are a lot fewer private drives, so we have no objection to studying the speed limit issue. It's an enforcement issue for us, specifically related to the school speed zone."

The county's Stephen Roberts said Feb. 14, "We echo Chief Fessler's concerns that he made at the CPO meeting. There has been no request from the CPO to study the speed limit on 131st and no concurrence from King City, so at this point, we are doing nothing.

"At some point in the future, Fischer will be widened with a center turn lane added and the curves straightened out. If someone requests a speed-limit study, there is a state law requiring that the neighboring jurisdiction concur, and ODOT actually does most of the work. The state speed control board authorizes any changes."

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