Los Altos City Council to Consider Speed Limit Changes


Los Altos, Calif. – July 29, 2013 – The California Vehicle Code (CVC) requires local municipalities to re-evaluate non-statutory speed limits every five to ten years. The requirements set forth by the CVC and California Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (CA MUTCD) maintain that speed limits must be based on valid traffic surveys in order to be enforceable by radar equipment.

Traffic surveys measure the speeds at which a random sampling of 100 motorists are driving on a given day. The speed limit is then determined by rounding to the nearest 5 mph increment of the 85th percentile speed. There are circumstances that allow a traffic engineer to further round down to the nearest 5 mph increment, such as road abnormalities or other road hazards that may not be visible to motorists.

The Los Altos City Council will hear a staff report at its August 13, 2013 meeting that will recommend speed limit increases on a number of road segments throughout the City. The last traffic survey conducted in the City of Los Altos was in 2007 and included the evaluation of 42 street segments. A total of 23 road segments were recently surveyed by the City, based on those findings, 19 segments have been recommended for raised speed limits, while four are recommended to maintain their current posted speeds.

In order to keep City streets safe from speeders, Police must be able to enforce speed limits. The use of radar equipment for speed enforcement is widely considered the safest and most effective method to detect and cite speed violators. While the City Council can set the speed limits as low as it desires, unless the posted speed limit is based on a valid traffic survey, Police cannot use radar enforcement.

The ‘pace method’ is an alternative speed enforcement method, which would require an officer to position his or her vehicle behind the violator to measure speed by following at a fixed distance. This can require maneuvering in and out of traffic and cutting off motorists to maintain pace. This method is not practical for the City of Los Altos due to the majority of City streets consisting of two lanes only.

Based on the recent traffic survey, 14 road segments are recommended to be raised from 25 mph to 30 mph, one road segment is recommended to be raised from 25 mph to 35 mph, and four segments are recommended to be raised from 30 mph to 35 mph. See the table below for more information. Adoption of an Ordinance to raise these speed limits will allow legal and safe speed enforcement for all the designated speed zones in the City of Los Altos.

Table 1 - 2013 Recommended Change to Speed Limits
  2007 2013
Street Limits Average 85th % Speed Posted Speed Limit Average 85th % Speed Recommended Speed Limit
Covington Rd. Fremont/El Monte to Springer 35 25 34.5 30
Covington Rd. Springer to Miramonte 33 25 34 30
Cristo Rey Dr. Foothill Expy to West City Limits 40 30 39.5 35
Cuesta Dr. El Monte to E. City Limits 35 25 35.5 30
W. Edith Ave. Entire Length 34 25 33 30
El Monte Ave. S. City Limits to Foothill Expwy 43 30 42.5 35
El Monte Ave. Foothill Expwy to Springer/City Limits 33 25 34 30
Fremont Ave. El Monte to Riverside 36 25 36 30
Fremont Ave. Springer to Miramonte 37 25 35 30
Fremont Ave. Miramonte to Grant 38 25 36 30
Fremont Ave. Grant to E. City Limits 39 30 37.5 35
Granger Ave. Entire Length 35 25 35 30
Grant Rd. Homestead to Grant 36 25 38.5 35
Grant Rd. Foothill Expwy to Fremont 38 25 36.5 30
Grant Rd. Fremont to N. City Limits 38 25 36.5 30
Miramonte Ave. Portland to N. City Limits 36 25 34.5 30
Miramonte Ave. Foothill Expwy  to Portland 36 25 35 30
Portland Ave. Entire Length 33 25 33 30
Springer Rd. Covington to Cuesta 39 30 39 35
Note: The Average 85th% speed is the average of the speeds in each direction


For more information, contact Cedric Novenario, Transportation Services Manager, at (650) 947-2626 or cnovenario@losaltosca.gov.

The mission of the City of Los Altos staff, council, commissions, committees and volunteers is to foster and maintain the City of Los Altos as a great place to live and to raise a family. For more information about the City of Los Altos, please visit www.losaltosca.gov.