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County plays Goldilocks -- raises, lowers speed limits

Delhi, Ballico and Cressey drivers -- pay attention to speed limit signs. Some of them are about to change.

Merced County officials approved this week another set of speed-limit updates on county roads, this time near Merced's northern county line.

While most of the changes will only amend speed limits by 5 mph, some raise or drop the limit by as many as 15 mph. On Schendel Avenue between Merced Avenue and Orchid Lane, for example, the limit will drop from 55 to 30 mph.

On Merced Avenue between Letteau Avenue and Schendel Avenue, drivers will now be allowed to go as fast as 40 mph, up from just 25.

In all, the Board of Supervisors approved speed-limit changes on 13 stretches of road Tuesday.

In five of those cases, the county will no longer post any speed limit. But that doesn't mean drivers can fly down those roads as fast as they want. Instead, it means drivers should use good judgment and adhere to limits listed in the state's vehicle code. On two-lane, undivided county roads, that's 55 mph.

The county began updating its speed limits in August, when the Board of Supervisors approved 14 other limit changes in the Atwater, Livingston and Beachwood areas.

The county plans to continue the update in coming months, county spokeswoman Katie Albertson said. In all, five more regional updates are planned across the county's unincorporated areas, she said.

The overhaul follows complaints from the California Highway Patrol that speed limits on many county roads haven't been updated in decades.

CHP officials say people who are ticketed for speeding on roads where speed limits haven't been updated in accordance with state law often use that as an argument to fight the tickets in court. By law, speed limits must be reviewed -- and, if necessary, changed -- at least every 10 years.

In Merced County, officials say, many speed limits haven't been reviewed in decades, if ever.

Starting last year, the county began conducting traffic studies in all areas where it posts speed limits. To determine a road's speed limit, the county uses radar technology to record how fast motorists are driving on a particular section of road. The speed limit that's usually chosen for the road matches the speed of 85 percent of the cars traveling there.

The county also examines accident records in the area. If a lot of collisions have occurred on a particular road, a lower speed limit is usually chosen.

The remainder of the speed limit changes will go to the Board of Supervisors for its approval in the coming months.

The amended limits will take effect as soon as new signs are posted.

Reporter Corinne Reilly

can be reached at 209 385-2477 or creilly@mercedsun-star.com.

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