It's official: Slow it down on Siskiyou

The speed limit on Siskiyou Boulevard in front of Southern Oregon University will change from 30 mph to 25 mph beginning Monday morning.

Jim Olson, interim director for Ashland's public works department, said his staff will start changing the 13 signs in the morning and the work should be completed that same day.

Reducing the speed limit was one of the Traffic Safety Commission's recommendations after the death of Gladys Jimenez, an SOU student who died in February after a car hit her in a Siskiyou crosswalk.

A recent Oregon Department of Transportation investigation recommended that the speed zone be reduced to 25 mph along Siskiyou Boulevard from 475 feet south of Gresham Street to 200 feet north of Harmony Lane.

"Getting ODOT approval was the key roadblock to the whole thing, and we've passed that hurdle in amazing time," said Matt Warshawsky, a traffic safety commissioner.

Olson said the effectiveness of the speed limit change will depend on whether people actually slow down or not.

"It will probably take enforcement and education," he said. "Even though the change is just five miles an hour, the chance of pedestrian survival in a 25 mph crash is significantly higher than a 30 mph crash."

What else?

Mayor John Morrison formed an Ad-Hoc Siskiyou Safety Committee made up of 18 members from the city council, traffic safety and bike and pedestrian commissions, planning and engineering departments and SOU staff, along with citizen, ODOT and Ashland School District participation.

Warshawsky, who was named chair of the committee, said the purpose of the committee is to study more in depth the issues concerning safety on Siskiyou Boulevard than could be tackled at the traffic safety commission level.

He said because the group is focusing solely on Siskiyou, it would allow for more creative solutions from a wider group of people.

"The hardest problems can be solved with collaboration. And we have assembled a great group of people from a wide range of backgrounds and experience," Warshawsky said. "The inclusion of several traffic engineers, and of course staff, will help us quickly determine what is feasible and enable us to move quicker."

He said the first order of business will be looking at ways to make the Garfield intersection safer.

"This is the most problematic area because there is no center median, leaving pedestrians exposed for a full five lanes," Warshawsky said. "There are also a large number of turning motions there, creating more conflict."

He said the committee, which will meet for the first time Wednesday, will probably meet several times to hash out the Garfield issue.

Southern Oregon University

Eric Rodriguez, SOU's campus public safety co-director, said discussions with city officials are continuing and that university staff and a student are on the new ad hoc committee studying ways to improve safety on Siskiyou.

He said the university will be waiting to see the ideas and suggestions that come out of committee meetings.

Rodriguez also said the safety flags placed by the crosswalks will continue to be replenished as needed.

He said a small percentage of people do use the flags and that the university has no plans to discontinue the program at this time.

Regarding other traffic safety commission recommendations, Olson said the city had received one bid for the pedestrian-activated crosswalks and is waiting for others. Coral Sales of Milwaukee, Ore. submitted a bid for $30,630.95.

He also said they hadn't yet found an ODOT lighting expert who would be willing to volunteer time in helping the city revise its current lighting on Siskiyou.

Reach reporter at 482-3456 x226 or .

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