BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó



                                                                      



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          |SENATE RULES COMMITTEE            |                   AB 529|
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                                 THIRD READING


          Bill No:  AB 529
          Author:   Gatto (D), et al.
          Amended:  7/11/11 in Senate
          Vote:     21

           
           SENATE TRANSPORTATION & HOUSING COMMITTEE  :  8-0, 6/14/11
          AYES:  DeSaulnier, Gaines, Harman, Huff, Kehoe, Lowenthal, 
            Pavley, Simitian
          NO VOTE RECORDED:  Rubio

           SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE  :  Senate Rule 28.8

           ASSEMBLY FLOOR  :  77-0, 5/19/11 - See last page for vote


           SUBJECT  :    Speed limits

           SOURCE  :     Author


           DIGEST  :    This bill requires the Department of 
          Transportation to revise its regulations so that state and 
          local authorities have greater flexibility in setting speed 
          limits on roads under their jurisdictions.

           Senate Floor Amendments  of 7/11/11 clarify that the bill 
          makes no changes to the Department of Transportation's 
          (Caltrans') processes for establishing traffic control 
          devices.

           ANALYSIS  :    Existing California law requires Caltrans 
          after consultation with local agencies and public hearings, 
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          to adopt rules and regulations that prescribe uniform 
          standards and specifications for traffic control devices, 
          including the posting of speed limits.  Caltrans adopts 
          these rules as the California Manual on Uniform Traffic 
          Control Devices (MUTCD), which among other things, 
          prescribes the process for setting speed limits in this 
          state.  

          Speed limits are generally -- in California and elsewhere 
          -- set in accordance with engineering and traffic surveys, 
          which measure prevailing vehicular speeds and establish the 
          limit at or near the 85th percentile (i.e., the speed that 
          15 percent of motorists exceed).  California law uses the 
          85th percentile 
          to set speed limits, except in cases where:

          1. The limit is set in state law, such as the 65 miles per 
             hour (MPH) limit on divided highways, 55 MPH on an 
             undivided highway, 25 MPH in residence districts, and 25 
             MPH in school zones; or 

          2. An engineering and traffic survey shows that other 
             safety-related factors suggest a lower speed limit to be 
             appropriate.  These safety-related factors are accident 
             data; highway, traffic, and roadway conditions not 
             readily apparent to the driver; residential density; and 
             pedestrian and bicyclist safety.  Based on these 
             safety-related factors, Caltrans regulations permit a 
             local jurisdiction to reduce a speed limit by 5 MPH from 
             the 85th percentile. 

          In cases where the 85th percentile speed is not an 
          increment of 5 MPH, the MUTCD directs a jurisdiction to 
          round to nearest 5 MPH increment.  Thus, if the survey 
          shows an 85th percentile speed of 34 MPH, the jurisdiction 
          must set the speed limit at 35 MPH.  The jurisdiction may 
          lower that speed limit by 5 MPH (i.e., to 30 MPH) if it 
          identifies and documents a safety-related factor.  The 
          jurisdiction cannot, however, lower the speed limit by more 
          than 5 MPH, regardless of additional safety factors.

          This bill: 

          1. Requires that Caltrans revise the MUTCD to require 

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             Caltrans and local authorities to round speed limits to 
             the nearest 5 MPH of the 85th percentile speed.  

          2. Allows, in instances where Caltrans or the local 
             authority should round up to reach the nearest 5 MPH, 
             that Caltrans or the local authority may instead round 
             down but then may not reduce the posted speed limit by a 
             5 MPH increment for a safety-related factor.  (Thus in 
             the example above where the 85th percentile speed is 34 
             MPH, the authority may set a speed limit of 30 MPH, but 
             may not also further reduce that speed by an additional 
             5 MPH due to a safety factor). 

          3. Clarifies that this bill makes no changes to Caltrans' 
             processes for establishing traffic control devices.

           Comments
           
          The author notes that prior to 2004, a local government 
          could set speed limits within 5 MPH of the 85th percentile, 
          which allowed local governments to round speed limits down. 
           In 2004, Caltrans changed the wording of the MUTCD so that 
          an authority setting speed limits not prescribed in statute 
          should set those speed limits at the nearest 5 MPH 
          increment of the 85th percentile and so that an authority 
          had to provide written demonstration of the safety-related 
          factor to lower that speed limit by an additional 5 MPH due 
          to that factor.  In 2009, Caltrans changed its MUTCD again 
          to require, rather than just recommend, that a state or 
          local authority set speed limits to the nearest 5 MPH 
          increment.  

          The author notes that Caltrans made the change from 
          "within" to the "nearest" 5 MPH increment in anticipation 
          of change in the federal rules that guide the process 
          states use to set speed limits.  The author notes that the 
          change in the federal rules never came to fruition.  
          Further, the proponents report that local governments have 
          found providing written evidence of a safety-related factor 
          to satisfy the courts that speed limits need to be lowered 
          has proven difficult and costly.  The idea, however, of 
          raising speed limits remains onerous to city councils and 
          local authorities.  The author introduced this bill to give 
          local governments the authority to round up or down to a 5 

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          MPH increment.

           Informational hearing  .  During the 2009-10 legislative 
          session, speed limit bills failed passage in both the 
          Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and the 
          Assembly Transportation Committee.  As a result, in the 
          fall of 2009, the two committees held a joint informational 
          hearing entitled, "Setting Speed Limits in California."  
          The committees heard substantive testimony demonstrating 
          that the majority of motorists (85 percent) will drive at a 
          rate of speed at which they feel safe and that speed limits 
          serve a coordinating function by reducing dispersion in 
          driving speed and the risk of conflict between vehicles. 

          The committees also heard evidence that artificially 
          lowering speed limits below the 85th percentile does not 
          reduce speeds but instead only increases violations and can 
          create a speed trap, a method by which municipalities may 
          raise revenue but which are illegal under California law.  
          Witnesses presented further evidence at the joint hearing 
          that showed increased enforcement, combined with traffic 
          calming measures (center islands, curb extensions, speed 
          humps, etc.), was the most effective method of changing 
          driver behavior and reducing driver speed.

           FISCAL EFFECT  :    Appropriation:  No   Fiscal Com.:  Yes   
          Local:  No

           SUPPORT  :   (Verified  7/11/11)

          Cities of El Cajon, Glendale, Lemoore, Long Beach, 
            Pasadena, Santa Rosa, and Thousand Oaks
          Glendale Police Department
          League of California Cities
          Peace Officers Research Association of California
          Ventura County Sheriff's Office

           OPPOSITION  :    (Verified  7/13/11)

          Department of Transportation

           ASSEMBLY FLOOR  :  77-0, 5/19/11
          AYES:  Achadjian, Allen, Ammiano, Atkins, Beall, Bill 
            Berryhill, Block, Blumenfield, Bonilla, Bradford, 

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            Brownley, Buchanan, Butler, Charles Calderon, Campos, 
            Carter, Cedillo, Chesbro, Conway, Cook, Davis, Dickinson, 
            Donnelly, Eng, Feuer, Fletcher, Fong, Fuentes, Furutani, 
            Beth Gaines, Galgiani, Garrick, Gatto, Gordon, Hagman, 
            Halderman, Hall, Harkey, Hayashi, Roger Hernández, Hill, 
            Huber, Hueso, Huffman, Jeffries, Jones, Knight, Lara, 
            Logue, Bonnie Lowenthal, Ma, Mansoor, Mendoza, Miller, 
            Mitchell, Monning, Morrell, Nestande, Nielsen, Norby, 
            Olsen, Pan, Perea, V. Manuel Pérez, Portantino, Silva, 
            Skinner, Smyth, Solorio, Swanson, Torres, Valadao, 
            Wagner, Wieckowski, Williams, Yamada, John A. Pérez
          NO VOTE RECORDED:  Alejo, Gorell, Grove

          JJA:kc  7/13/11   Senate Floor Analyses 

                         SUPPORT/OPPOSITION:  SEE ABOVE

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