Williams City Council holds transportation-heavy meeting as it weighs split from Colusa County Transportation Commission
From traffic studies and speed limit changes to new stop signs and talk of a city-run transit service, transportation was a focal point of last Wednesday’s city council meeting in Williams.
The emphasis on transportation isn’t new – it has been a focal point over the tenure of the current city council, particularly councilman Charles Bergson, who has been leading the charge to get the city’s abysmal roads repaired.
On numerous occasions, Bergson has said that the City of Williams isn’t getting its fair share of transportation dollars from the Colusa County Transportation Commission, which he says the city needs for major road repairs and reconstruction projects. Bergson and other council members have pointed to the city’s voluminous gas sales and the amount of money it raises through gas taxes, and have said that Williams should receive a greater share of the county’s transportation funds as a result. Bergson is also on the record as saying that there has not been a major roadway repair in the city in at least 15 years, and he has been pushing the council to explore all of their options in recent months.
Last month, Bergson floated the idea of starting a local transit agency in the City of Williams. He had previously asked the council to explore a break from the Colusa County Transportation Commission in September, so that the City of Williams could handle its own roads money.
At the Colusa County Transportation Commission meeting earlier this month, county representatives on the commission asked City Administrator Frank Kennedy, who represents the City of Williams on the commission, what the city intended to do moving forward. At the time, Kennedy said that while he didn’t believe there was “a lot of wind in the sails” to move forward, the city was nevertheless weighing whether it should break from the Colusa County Transit Agency Joint Powers Agreement and operate its own transit service. The notion that the city wanted off of the Colusa County Transportation Commission, however, was false, Kennedy told fellow commissioner and Colusa County Supervisor Denise Carter.
At Wednesday’s city council meeting in Williams, Bergson set the record straight, and clarified that he was, in fact, asking that the city explore going its own way on transportation, creating a situation where the city would act as it’s own Regional Transportation Planning Agency.
“Last meeting, the council assigned myself and (council member) Troughton to be the exploratory committee about investigating a transit program,” Bergson said at the meeting. “More specifically, and really, I wanted to clarify, it’s essentially forming a Transportation Commission.”
Bergson went on to say that there are about 19 different commissions throughout the state, and that the City of Williams would be reviewing state law to determine if they are eligible to become a local transportation commission. He said that he had put in a request to speak with Assemblymember Cecilia Aguilar-Curry and State Senator Jim Nielsen to discuss the city’s options, and added that the city would “at the same time, try to work with the (Colusa County Transportation) Commission to try and get these dollars to program.”
“We’re hoping we still could work with the local commission and get it done,” Bergson said.
There are actually 26 rural Regional Transportation Planning Agencies (RTPAs) across California, which are statutorily created by the state. Of those 26 RTPAs, 19 are referred to as County Transportation Commissions. In any case, they all serve the same function: The RTPAs are tasked with preparing Regional Transportation Plans, long-range planning documents that establish regional goals, identify present and future needs, deficiencies and constraints, analyze potential solutions, estimate available funding, and propose investments.
Those Regional Transportation Plans establish the basis for programming local, state, and federal funds for transportation projects within a region.
City Administrator Kennedy said on Monday that the effort was still in its infancy, and should be seen as a very distant possibility. He added that it would likely require changes to the state law for the City of Williams to quailify as its own RTPA.
City completes traffic survey; speed limits rising in parts of town
Speed limit increases have been suggested at five roadway sections in the City of Williams following the completion of a Engineering and Traffic Surveys report, which was presented to the Council by City Engineer Trin Campos last Wednesday. The council voted unanimously to approve the report. About 10 new speed limit signs will be needed to reflect the updated survey, which city staff estimates will cost a total of $3,000.
A total of 11 roadway segments were a part of the survey. The updated speed zone study is required per the California Vehicle Code, so that local law enforcement officers can use radar to enforce the posted speed limits.
Williams Police Chief Ed Anderson said that his department didn’t necessarily want to increase the speed limits on those five sections, but that it was required by law in order for his officers to enforce the speed limits with radar.
“That’s just what the traffic engineer is telling us we need to do in order to use radar to enforce,” Anderson said. “If we don’t increase them… we cannot use radar, and we cannot enforce it. It’s kind of a Catch-22.”
The five segments of road that will have changes to speed limits include the section of E Street between 4th Street and Vann Street, the section of 7th Street between Theater Road and E Street, and the section of 7th Street between E Street and North Street – all of which will see the posted speed limits increased to 30 mph from the current posted speed limit of 25 mph. The stretch of Zumwalt Road between the city limits and Theater Road will increase from 35 to 45 mph. The greatest speed limit increase will be seen on 7th Street between North Street and the Highway 20 on- and off-ramp – up to 40 mph from 25 mph.
During public comment, some residents expressed concerns about raising the speed limits, including Sajit Singh. Singh said that drivers have a tendency to consistently drive over the posted speed limit, and was concerned that raising the posted speed limit would, in effect, cause speeding cars to pass through even faster.
“If a sign is posted at 35, it’s almost a green light for them to go 45,” Singh said.
Campos responded that when drivers see that speed limits are not being enforced by radar, as is currently the case in the recently surveyed street sections in Williams, “they figure it out pretty quick” and start speeding up.
“Once this is in place, the Police Chief and his staff are going to be able to do radar enforcement, and people are going to see them out there,” Campos said. “And believe me, people notice that… We gotta get this in place, and get the radar enforcement underway.”
City Administrator Frank Kennedy added that while the city would be raising some of the posted speed limits, allowing the department to use radar enforcement would make for more consistent compliance and fewer speeders. ■