‘U.S. 101speedway’

'U.S. 101speedway'

GILROY
– Local California Highway Patrol Officer Jason Workman did
something Wednesday afternoon that for years had been nearly
impossible – he wrote a speeding ticket to a driver on southbound
U.S. 101 north of Cochrane Road during early afternoon rush
hour.
GILROY – Local California Highway Patrol Officer Jason Workman did something Wednesday afternoon that for years had been nearly impossible – he wrote a speeding ticket to a driver on southbound U.S. 101 north of Cochrane Road during early afternoon rush hour.

“Before the new lanes opened it was usually gridlock this time of day,” said Workman, who just got finished writing a speeding ticket at 3:30 p.m. to a man clocked at 88 mph in the 65 mph zone on southbound U.S. 101, a half mile north of Cochrane Road. “It used to be that the only speeding tickets we wrote were at night or early in the morning, but not anymore.”

That’s why with the expansion of U.S. 101 – now 10 days old – the CHP is continuing to work overtime to send a message to South County commuters: “Slow down, we’re watching you.”

Since the four new lanes of U.S. 101 officially opened on May 19, the CHP has written an average of more than 14 speeding tickets a day to heavy-footed drivers commuting the 23 miles between 10th Street in Gilroy and Blossom Hill Road in San Jose.

Before last week’s shattering of the infamous 10-mile bottleneck between Cochrane Road and Highway 85, the CHP handed out an average of fewer than eight speeding tickets per day along that same stretch of highway between Gilroy and San Jose, according to CHP spokesperson Terry Mayes.

“We’ve made it a priority to reduce and enforce speeds with the opening of the new lanes,” Mayes said. “People have been frustrated with this slow commute for years and now they want to make up for it, but we want to get it in peoples’ heads right now that this isn’t a speedway.”

In an effort to deter speeding along the new stretch of concrete, the CHP is utilizing its expanded patrols allocated to comply with the federal orange terror alert put in place May 21.

Since the May 21 federal mandate that required local CHP officers lengthen normal 8-and-a-half-hour shifts to 12-hour overlapping shifts, the CHP has kept at least four cars patrolling U.S. 101 between Gilroy and San Jose at all times, along with an additional four to six officers on patrol. The federal government is footing bill for the overtime.

“Our goal is to be as visible as possible,” Mayes said. “The (federal terror alert) overtime has given us the resources to enforce this area with a large number of officers.”

But not everyone is getting the message.

Resting in his cruiser on the southbound shoulder of U.S. 101 north of Cochrane Road Wednesday, CHP Officer Workman’s radar regularly records speeds into the high 70 mph range. This is a 65 mph zone, and when the radar rolls to 88 mph Workman turns on his lights and hits the gas pedal of his cruiser.

Less than a mile toward Cochrane Road, Workman catches the silver Toyota Corolla he clocked at 23 mph above the speed limit and pulls the driver over.

Ten minutes later, the driver of the Corolla is driving again, but at a much slower pace, with a ticket costing between $40 and $200 and a possible hike in his insurance premium lurking.

“He said he was on his way home,” Workman said. “He was probably trying to get there a bit quicker. … Now he’s out some money and some more time.”

Mayes said one of the main goals in enforcing the speed limit is to reduce the amount of severe crashes that are expected to come with the increased speed on U.S. 101.

Although the total amount of accidents on South County’s 23-mile stretch of 101 is expected to decrease with the decline in traffic congestion, the crashes that do occur will be more deadly, Mayes said.

With 7,700 cars an hour driving on U.S. 101 past Cochrane Road at peak drive times, the CHP will continue to maintain a tight grip on speeders in the area.

“If we don’t control this area now it could get pretty ugly,” Mayes said. “What we are doing now is trying to set the tone for speeders: If you speed, you’ll pay.”

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