Traffic issues as they relate to Coronado can be both obvious and highly technical. The obvious part is the city has too many cars traversing a system of roads that wasn’t constructed to handle the traffic volume. The technical issues come into play when just about every option the city has to enforce traffic speeds are addressed, because state statutes and Caltrans policies come into play.
Traffic has again become a hot topic in Coronado, a fact borne out by the large crowds attending the last two city council meetings which addressed traffic. The city council decided to call a special meeting for traffic solutions for Tuesday, June 23 at 12 noon and despite the unusual starting time, the council’s chambers were again packed. The concept of the meeting was to address quick-fix traffic measures as opposed to larger-scale engineering-related projects. The only area addressed was the Third and Fourth Street corridor, between Orange Avenue and the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge, which is also State Route 75.
The immediate problem is the city and Caltrans don’t have a current Engineering and Traffic Survey (E&TS) in force, as the old survey expired January 2015. Without a current E&TS, the Coronado Police Department is prohibited to use LIDAR or radar to enforce speed limits. Caltrans, which has the final say on speed limits in the corridor, says that according to their new speed survey, the speed limit should be raised to 30 miles an hour from the current 25 mph.
City Manager Blair King at the outset of the discussion on whether or not to accept the current Caltrans speed study said, “There are dangers with multiple speed studies. The next one may go up. There is a strong possibility that instead of a speed limit of 30 miles an hour, it could be 35.” The first order of business for the council was to receive a report from Police Chief Jon Froomin on traffic issues. Among the points Froomin made in his written presentation to the council were:
• Traffic management involves three main components, engineering, education and enforcement.
• Traffic enforcement data indicates during 2014 and 2015, between 20 percent and 25 percent of all citations and warnings issued in the city were for violations on Third and Fourth Streets. Those figures are commensurate with traffic collision data which indicated between 21 percent and 25 percent of all collision reports that were written in the city resulted from crashes on those streets.
• Despite not having LIDAR or radar to enforce speeds, officers have issued more citations and written warnings in the first five months of 2015 than were issued during the same period of 2014 on the Third and Fourth Street Corridor.
• The Coronado Police Department issued 96 percent more speeding citations in 2014 than they did in 2013.
• The Coronado Police Department issued 13 percent more traffic citations in 2014 than they did in 2013.
• During his oral presentation to the council, Froomin said the typical cost of a ticket for a traffic violation is $239, of which Coronado receives only $25.72 or 75 percent of 98 percent of the bail. Froomin said, “Money is not a factor in issuing a citation.”
• It takes a minimum of two to three hours for a traffic officer to appear in court in support of a traffic violation.
The council’s second action was to discuss and then vote on the new Caltrans speed survey. A total of 11 members of the public provided input regarding traffic to the council. Councilmember Bill Sandke speaking about the traffic survey being required for LIDAR and radar said, “We have left a weapon out of their (the Coronado Police Department) arsenal. I would be in favor of the speed study so officers can do their job.” Councilmember Mike Woiwode added, “Let’s get this approved and start enforcement.” The motion to approve the speed survey passed 5-0.
Then the council embarked on a protracted run through several traffic control options, starting with enforcement. Councilmembers expressed a willingness to authorize budget changes to allow overtime for police officers to enforce the speed limit. Mayor Casey Tanaka noted, “I’m willing to expand that part of the budget and that is an amendment I am willing to make. I’m on the record for more overtime for enforcement.”
Councilmember Richard Bailey concurred and said, “I’m in favor of overtime. Also the staff should bring back a report with specific numbers to add an officer or two or three [to the department]. We should increase enforcement to a reasonable level.”
Tanaka made the motion to direct staff and the police department to immediately increase their enforcement efforts, with overtime available immediately, and to come back to the council with plans and a range of options, when they see how new levels of enforcement have gone. The motion passed 5-0.
The next issue was the consideration of placing two crossing guards each at Third Street and B Avenue, and Fourth Street and B Avenue. The total annual expense for this measure would cost $154,000. After discussing the proposal, the suggestion was tabled by the council.
The next proposal was the use of a flashing speed limit sign or signs in the city. All of the councilmembers were enthusiastically behind the suggestion for the signs, which cost between $10,000 and $15,000 per location. King mentioned that the Caltrans deputy director made a tentative offer to fund two of the signs. Tanaka suggested that there be two signs per street (Third and Fourth Streets) and that the city engineers work out the exact locations for the signs. The vote for this measure was 5-0.
A brief discussion for a pedestrian flag program was up next and was tabled. Painting of the legal speed limit on the street was discussed and passed by a 5-0 vote.
The next topic was the installation of signage which would prohibit pedestrians from crossing at Third Street and A Avenue, Third Street and B Avenue, and Third Street and C Avenue. All of the councilmembers except Richard Bailey were on the way to killing this proposal, when Bailey suggested the signs be advisory as opposed to prohibitive and inform pedestrians that crossing at Third and Orange would be the safest option. Bailey suggested that the signs for this purpose could be incorporated into the city’s recently adopted wayfinding signage program. A motion to direct the city staff to explore the program passed 5-0.
The council decided to table the concepts of marked cross walks and pedestrian warning signs. Elapsed time for the meeting was just shy of two hours.
The next meeting of the Coronado City Council is set for Tuesday, July 21, 2015, at 4 p.m. City council meetings are held at Coronado City Hall located at 1825 Strand Way in Coronado.