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Is 45 mph too fast for Louise Ave. in Lathrop?

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POSTED July 23, 2013 2:07 a.m.

LATHROP – The segment of Louise Avenue that runs through Lathrop is a racetrack.

From the city limits all the way through Interstate 5, traffic flies past business, houses and cross-streets at 50 miles per hour.

Or at least that’s the perception among people in the community and some on the city council that think the posted speed limit is a little bit too high.

The actual speed of the traffic, however, is different than what most people may think.

Based on a recently conducted speed survey – done to keep Lathrop’s roadways in compliance with laws that allow local law enforcement organizations to use radar – at least 85 percent of the traffic along Louise Avenue is moving along at or below 45 miles per hour.

But keeping in step with the speed survey isn’t something that the council has always done.

The last time that the Lathrop City Council talked about speed limits they cut 15 miles per hour off of the flow of Lathrop Road and disregarded the city’s speed survey.

That normally wouldn’t be a big deal. Elected officials make their own decisions all the time, and safety was the reason behind the decision.

But for Lathrop Police officers the move meant that they couldn’t use radar to enforce the new restrictions as it wasn’t in line with the very document that maps Lathrop’s street speeds.

Police Chief Danelle Hohe reinforced that to the council last week, pointing out that her officers could only use radar in instances where the posted speed limit actually matches those that are in the speed survey. A copy of that survey, she said, goes to the courts, and no matter how many accidents or complaints takes place on a given road or at an intersection, the hands of Lathrop Police are tied.

And there are some places in the community that people don’t realize are excluded from the radar list.

J Street and Thomsen Street, both of which are by near Lathrop Elementary School, can’t be enforced by radar or lidar because the posted limit doesn’t match the survey.

Councilman Steve Dresser wanted to make sure that the police have the opportunity to use all of the tools at their disposal in order to enforce the laws that the council enacts after a spirited discussion with his colleagues.

“It’s like your kids – you can tell them not do something, and you can tell them again, and again, and again. But at some point you have to be able to enforce what you’re telling them,” Dresser said. “Right now 85 percent of the people are going to obey the law, and 15 percent of the people don’t care – they’re going to speed. It doesn’t matter whether there’s a sign that tells them they’re speeding or a portable because they know they aren’t going to get a ticket.

“The question here is what do we want to do to enforce and protect the safety of our residents? It might seem heavy-handed, but it’s only heavy-handed to the violators.”

The following is information based on the survey:

• Of 54 roadway segments, 12 are still considered local streets and will remain posted at 25 miles per hour and can be used with radar.

• 26 of the 54 segments will see no changes and will remain enforceable by radar.

• Of the remaining 16 segments, the survey recommends three decreases – two segments of Louise Avenue that stretches from the city limits to Harlan Road – as well as a segment of Harlan Road from Slate Road to 5th Street. All are slated to drop from 50 miles per hour to 45 miles per hour.

After the motion to approve the motion failed – Councilwoman Martha Salcedo was absent, and a no vote by Vice Mayor Omar Ornelas and an abstention by Paul Akinjo failed to constitute a majority by Mayor Dhaliwal and Dresser – a motion was made and approved to bring the matter back to the next council meeting.

The public will once again get a chance to make comments. Nobody did so last week.

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