Despite a 35 mph speed limit on El Camino Real in cities like Mountain View, that stretch of SR-82 in Sunnyvale had been posted at 40 mph for many years. Although the City of Sunnyvale has jurisdiction to amend the speed limits on many roadways in the city, El Camino Real is managed by Caltrans. Due to local pressure aimed at dropping vehicular speeds on that route, the agency recently installed new speed limit signs.
“The California Department of Transportation has reduced the posted speed limit on El Camino Real (SR-82) from 40 MPH to 35 MPH,” said the Sunnyvale Police Department in a statement. “Please take note of this change and slow your roll down El Camino Real. Speed limit signs are being put up by Caltrans HQ today. Always drive safe and obey all traffic laws.”
According to Mayor Larry Klein, the speed limit issue came to the forefront in October of 2019, after three students from Peterson Middle School were hit by a car at Poplar Avenue and El Camino Real. Although speed may not have been the primary cause of the incident, Klein said that it opened an opportunity for him to meet with Caltrans about lowering the speed limit. Members of the PTA also reportedly wrote letters to Caltrans advocating for the reduction.
“There have been issues along El Camino for many years,” said Klein. “I met with parents, I met with the School District, I met with Caltrans, and I was actually impressed that Caltrans was listening in this case. They immediately made some efforts to re-stripe those intersections, they installed count down timers for the students that are crossing El Camino, which is a fairly wide street — showing kids and parents how much time they have to cross is pretty critical. Those efforts were all done in the fall.”
With discussions ongoing with Caltrans, Klein said he broached the topic of lowering the speed limit to 35 mph, and a subsequent study was conducted that finished in March just before the shelter-in-place order took effect. From the results of the study, Caltrans concluded that a speed limit reduction was reasonable to increase safety. The speed reduction was approved in June and new signs were put up during the first week in September.
“Speed affects reaction time,” said Klein. “The lower the speed is on that corridor the better it is for anyone involved in an accident. It’s a big win for our city, and from a safety standpoint in the long run people will appreciate it. It makes El Camino safer for our pedestrians, cyclists and anyone traveling along that corridor.” Klein added that he had received letters of support and others of opposition from residents regarding the change.
Additionally, Klein said that Caltrans is working on upgrading crosswalks and countdown timers on SR-82 across the complete length of the Peninsula, from San Jose to San Francisco. Meanwhile, Sunnyvale is working on evaluating its El Camino Real Specific Plan and considering adding more bike lanes and making other improvements to address safety for pedestrians and cyclists on the route.
Caltrans did not respond with a comment in time for publication.