Merced to set 'tables' in effort to slow Rambler Road traffic

jsmith@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 23, 2013 

MERCED -- After years of public concern, the Merced City Council at this week's meeting unanimously approved the installation of three speed "tables" for Rambler Road between M and R streets.

"With increased traffic, we've had increased speed," said David Lopez, who lives on the affected street. "I've seen cars trying to pass each other on Rambler Road, driving down the middle of Rambler Road."

The installation of three speed tables -- a flatter, less aggressive version of speed bumps -- will slow traffic on the cross-town shortcut, according to city officials.

There are about 800 vehicles a day using Rambler Road, according to a city study. Of those vehicles, 100 cars travel at or above 30 mph in the 25 mph zone.

"They are effective in slowing traffic down but let it continue at a reasonable speed rather than having to come down to two or three miles an hour to climb over a speed bump, as you see in a lot of parking lots," said Stan Murdock, director of public works.

While the council on Tuesday voiced broad support for the project, some raised concerns that, under city guidelines, residents on the street are being expected to pay for the $15,000 traffic calming devices.

Not all neighborhoods can afford to pay for such projects, said Councilwoman Mary-Michal Rawling.

"I don't object, but I feel like it is the city's responsibility to make sure our neighborhoods are safe," she said.

Mayor Stan Thurston echoed that sentiment: "If this is a serious safety issue, this shouldn't be burdened on the residents."

The city can contribute up to 25 percent of the cost of the project, according to city officials. However, the city has not signaled it would do so in this case.

The city can't afford to pay for the project at this time, said Councilman Josh Pedrozo.

"I wish we didn't have to put the burden onto the people who are on the street," he said. "But then it gets to the point of how do we make the distinction of what neighborhoods to we pay for and what neighborhoods do we not pay for? Because there are other streets that people have these concerns."

More than 50 homes in the area agreed to pay for the project at a cost of roughly $300 to $400 a home, according to city officials.

Traffic calming devices are installed after concerned residents bring the issue to the attention of the city. At least four households in a area have to support the perceived problem in the form of letters or a signed petition.

Reporter Joshua Emerson Smith can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or jsmith@mercedsunstar.com.

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