Speed limit reduced

ASHLAND — The speed limit on Siskiyou Boulevard in front of Southern Oregon University will be reduced 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 along that stretch in the morning and the work should be completed by afternoon.

Reducing the speed limit was one of the Traffic Safety Commission's recommendations after the death of Gladys Jimenez, an SOU student who was struck by a car in the Garfield Street crosswalk on Feb. 13 and died seven days later.

A recent Oregon Department of Transportation investigation recommended that the speed limit 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.

"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."

Mayor John Morrison formed an Ad-Hoc Siskiyou Safety Committee made up of 18 members representing the City Council, traffic safety and bike and pedestrian commissions, planning and engineering departments, SOU, local citizens, ODOT and the Ashland School District.

Warshawsky, who was named chairman, said the committee will study issues concerning safety on Siskiyou Boulevard more thoroughly than could be done at the traffic safety commission level.

He said because the group is focusing solely on Siskiyou Boulevard, 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."

The committee's first meeting is Wednesday. Warshawsky 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."

Eric Rodriguez, SOU's campus public safety co-director, said safety flags placed by the crosswalks in February will continue to be replenished as needed.

Olson said the city had received one bid for installing pedestrian-activated crosswalks and is waiting for others. Coral Sales of Milwaukie submitted a bid for $30,631.

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.

Michele Mihalovich is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings.

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