Merced County Times Newspaper
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Speeding problems worry Mercedians

Ralph Ramirez and Gilbert Arias observe traffic near their neighborhood on Olive Avenue, east of McKee Road.
Ralph Ramirez and Gilbert Arias observe traffic near their neighborhood on Olive Avenue, east of McKee Road.

More Mercedians are coming forward about speeding issues in their neighborhood.

Residents say the stretch of Olive Avenue, between McKee Road and the new roundabout on Campus Parkway, is starting to sound like an aircraft runway.

“Have you ever seen the movie Top Gun?” asked Gilbert Arias, a dentist who lives off Whitegate Drive about a half mile east of McKee. “That’s what it sounds like. Jets taking off. If you didn’t know it was the street, you’d think you were watching the movie.”

The problem is particularly bad in the mornings and evenings, Arias said. But around noon last Friday, Arias and his neighbor Ralph Ramirez stood at the road’s edge and pointed out a number of cars that were driving much faster than the posted 45 mph speed limit.

“Our bedroom is on [the side facing the road],” he said “We‘ll open the window to get some fresh air and all you can hear are these cars just flying.”

“The speeding is terrible,” Arias continued. “But it got worse when they opened the roundabout.”

The roundabout he’s referring to is at the intersection of Olive and the Campus Parkway currently under construction. The Parkway is set to run all the way from Highway 99 south of Merced along the eastern outskirts of town, creating an easy route to UC Merced that doesn’t involve driving down surface streets.

But Arias and his neighbors are stuck in a weird spot. They live right at the border where Merced’s residential area ends and its rural area begins. A pistachio orchard sits just beyond Ramirez’ house on Leaf Drive. Olive Avenue is also a major thoroughfare in Merced and a popular choice for those coming into town from the east. Drivers used to speeding through farmland – where the speed limit is still 45 mph – don’t slow down fast enough when they hit the residential area, causing problems.

Still, Arias and his neighbors say they would like a solution. He wanted a stop sign but was told by county officials that the neighborhood didn’t qualify. So now he is working on gaining support for a traffic camera. There haven’t been any accidents yet, but Arias said locals are worried.

“It’s a lot more dangerous to cross the street,” he said. “We have a lot of young families pushing strollers, people walking their dogs, people riding bikes.”

It’s not the first time residents have complained about speeding problems. Early in September, a group of residents along Cone Avenue in the southern outskirts of town petitioned the Board of Supervisors for speed bumps to help control speeders. Traffic has also been a concern in the old neighborhoods of south Merced, where it has been brought up recently by candidates for the City Council.

Speeding is a problem that tends to take a backburner to other, more high-profile issues in government, and Merced is no different. But speeding is a major contributor to traffic deaths. Roughly 30 percent of traffic deaths in America are due to speeding.

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