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Speed limits on these 4 roads will soon be increased in Citrus Heights. Here’s why

File photo, speed limit sign. // M. Hazlip

By Rylie Friesen-
The City Council on Oct. 22 made the unusual move to vote in favor of increasing the posted speed limits on sections of four roads in Citrus Heights, following new traffic surveys and a staff recommendation.

The sections of roadway that will be affected are on Sunrise Boulevard, Old Auburn Road, and Antelope Road. Additionally, one section of roadway will instead have its speed limit decreased by five miles per hour, on Fountain Square Drive.

City Engineer Leslie Blomquist and Police Sgt. Shaun Gualco told the council that speed limits would need to be raised in order to avoid being considered a “speed trap.” Speeding tickets issued under “speed trap” conditions are inadmissible in court.

The California Vehicle Code (CVC) defines a speed trap as when a speed limit “is not justified by an engineering and traffic survey (E&TS) within five years, and the enforcement of the speed limit involves the use of [lidar] that measures the speed of moving objects.” The vehicle code also requires that speeds be set at or near “the 85th percentile speed.”

The requirements only apply if police are using radar or lidar equipment for enforcement. Gualco said the most effective form of speed enforcement is lidar, which uses light detection rather than radio waves and allows for “pinpoint accuracy.”

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The 85th percentile is the speed at which 85% of all drivers are traveling at or below, with the speed rounded to the nearest 5 mile per hour increment. Speed limits can be lowered an additional 5 miles per hour, if justified by conditions like crash history, cyclists or pedestrian activity, and other factors — which was is the case on many roads in Citrus Heights.

“Studies have shown that setting the speed limit too high or too low can increase collisions,” Blomquist told the council. “Speed limits set near the 85th percentile speed of free-flowing traffic has shown less variance in vehicle speeds on the roadway.”

To measure the 85th percentile free-flow traffic speed, data collected is required to not be influenced by anything other than the roadway itself — this includes construction, law enforcement presence or the perception of law enforcement, and weather. Staff said all data was collected before COVID-19, under normal conditions.

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The council supported staff’s recommendation in a unanimous vote with limited discussion. Councilman Bret Daniels called the move to increase speed limits “a good thing, and a very logical thing for us to do,” in light of the traffic studies.

Sgt. Gualco said speeding is the number one cause for collisions in the city and said the Police Department writes an average of 5,000 citations a year, with 71% of those being moving violations.

The following streets will be affected by the changes:

  • Antelope Rd from I-80 to Auburn Blvd. The existing speed limit is 40 MPH and will increase to 45 MPH. The 85th percentile speed was measured at 51 MPH, but staff recommended a speed 5 MPH lower due to the collision rate being 237% higher than expected for the road
  • Antelope Rd from Auburn Blvd to Sunrise Blvd. The existing speed limit is 40 MPH and will increase to 45 MPH. The 85th percentile speed was measured at 50 MPH, but staff recommended a speed 5 MPH lower due to a collision rate being 165% higher than expected for the road.
  • Old Auburn Rd from Fair Oaks Blvd to the Northeastern City Limits. The existing speed limit is 35 MPH and will increase to 40 MPH. The 85th percentile speed was measured at 43 MPH and was rounded down.
  • Sunrise Blvd from Antelope Rd. to the Northern City Limits. The existing speed limit is 40 MPH and will increase to 45 MPH. The 85th percentile was measured at 49 MPH, but staff recommended a speed 5 MPH lower due to the collision rate being 121% higher than expected for the roadway.
  • Fountain Square Drive from Greenback Ln. to Stock Ranch Rd. The existing speed limit is 30 MPH, which is also the 85th percentile. The new speed limit will be 25 MPH, due to a collision rate being 265% higher than expected for the roadway.

The cost to post new signage on the affected roadways is estimated at $6,500, according to a staff report. The associated ordinance revision regarding speed limits will require a formal second reading before being adopted and will take effect 30 days after adoption.

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