Driver’s Beware — Speed Limits Changing

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

June 5, 2023

Drivers in Morro Bay beware — some of the most heavily driven streets in town are getting their speed limits changed and traffic enforcement can go into effect immediately, after the City Council decided to declare the changes an emergency situation.

The council was faced with having the City’s official “Citywide Speed Survey” expire, and so elected to declare an emergency and go around a 30-day lag period before the new 2023 Citywide Speed Survey could go into effect. 

The speed surveys must be updated every 7-14 years, according to a city report. Without a valid survey in place, speeding tickets issued by traffic cops could be challenged on a technicality.

“Speed surveys serve as legal justifications for speed limits,” reads the report, “and are necessary to maintain enforceability of speed limits by the Police Department. Speed surveys do expire, and they must be updated every 7-14 years. The City’s prior speed survey was set to expire on May 23, 2023. Completion of the recent speed survey allows for continuity of speed limit enforcement of Morro Bay.”

To change speed limits requires amending the City Municipal Code (Section 10.56.010), and with the vote by Council on May 23, the new speed limits go into effect immediately.

Among the changes are: dropping Main Street from Atascadero Road to Yerba Buena Street down to 35 mph from 40; dropping Main from Radcliff to Atascadero Road (Hwy 41) from 35 to 30 mph; and dropping Main from Marina to State Park Road from 30 to 25 mph.

That last stretch of roadway and the excessive speeds people drive on what is a long, downhill straightaway has been a bane for people who live in that area. Indeed, residents living around the Pacific Avenue and Main Street intersection once petitioned for a 4-way stop to be installed. And while the City Council capitulated to having stop signs added to Main Street, the staff later declined to do so, citing a lack of evidence (i.e. accidents) reported at that intersection to justify it.

Instead they tried traffic calming measures — painting big white striping in crosswalks and exaggerated bulb outs at the corners — which oddly enough often cause drivers on Main Street to stop thinking there must be a stop sign too, though there isn’t. 

Other streets to get new speed limits include the Embarcadero from Beach Street to Coleman Drive dropping from 30 to 25 mph. Quintana Road from Main to Morro Bay Boulevard is now being set at 25 mph, and Pacific Avenue from the Embarcadero to Kings Street is also now set at 25 mph.

Morro Bay Boulevard from Piney Way to Quintana Road is now 25 mph, as are Ironwood Avenue from Del Mar Park to Hwy 41, and Kern Avenue from MBB to Ridgeway Street.

The new speed limits will be fair game for traffic enforcement once the maintenance crew gets the new speed limit signs erected.

It should be noted that residential streets while not posted are generally limited to 25 mph, though several streets in the Heights with blind corners, behoove drivers to drop it down to about 15 mph for the safety of other drivers, pedestrians and children playing. 

And a dearth of sidewalks in the Heights and North Morro Bay neighborhoods also warrants slowing down for pedestrian safety, as people and pets have to walk in the street.

Of note, not one speed limit on any city street was increased, and seven went unchanged in the new ordinance.

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