Guest Column: New Signs Make Welburn Safer

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The turn restrictions at the corner of Welburn Avenue and Mantelli Avenue are making Upper Welburn Avenue safer. The signs restricting turns are a result of four years of communication with city staff, extensive study by city traffic engineers, and three unanimous decisions by the Gilroy City Council.
Cars have used Upper Welburn Avenue between Santa Teresa Boulevard and Mantelli Avenue as a cut-through route for years. The 37 residents, including my family, living on this half-mile stretch of road have tolerated the speeding cars.
This portion of Welburn Avenue measures about 27 feet in width – about half the width of Mantelli Avenue – and does not have sidewalks or bike lanes. However, it’s a popular route for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The priority of Upper Welburn residents has always been public safety. We have witnessed close calls of children nearly being hit by cars and have suffered thousands of dollars in property damage.
The 2012 city traffic study shows that a majority of the cars on Upper Welburn travel at speeds at least 9 miles per hour above the posted 25 miles per hour speed limit. It rated Upper Welburn as the third highest of incidents of speeding out of 117 Gilroy streets surveyed.
In 2013, Upper Welburn residents began a dialogue with city staff. Henry Servin, former Gilroy city traffic engineer, studied the number of cars traveling on Upper Welburn, their traffic patterns, and the speed at which they traveled. At neighborhood meetings in 2016, Mr. Servin discussed solutions to calm traffic. Measures included striping shoulders along the road, placing a stop sign at Taryn and Welburn Avenue, and placing a plastic barrier at the western entrance of Welburn Avenue at Mantelli Avenue to restrict turns. He explained that the latter would curb the number of cars speeding on upper Welburn while allowing passage of emergency vehicles.
Upper Welburn residents voiced support for the striping and turn restrictions. However, they didn’t believe a stop sign would calm traffic because most cars don’t stop at the existing stop sign at Rancho Real and Welburn Avenue. Mr. Servin also said that a stop sign alone wouldn’t solve the problems. Residents never objected to the stop sign because they believed that it would decrease property values.
City Council member Daniel Harney said he was referring to city traffic engineers when he commented at the October 17th City Council meeting that “a couple of people” had talked about the possibility of a stop sign lowering property values.
Residents asked Mr. Servin if speed bumps were a viable option. Mr. Servin said that the city didn’t favor speed bumps because they could impede emergency vehicle response times.
Mr. Servin asked residents to seek consensus among Upper Welburn residents for the striping and barriers, which they did in the form of a petition. This was presented to the City Council at its October 17th meeting.
Council members also discussed changing the classification of Upper Welburn to a residential street. City Council asked city staff for a plan to put the traffic measures in place and not wait for further study because they believed they had sufficient information from Mr. Servin’s previous studies. At the October 17th, November 21st and February 27th City Council meetings, City Council unanimously approved the striping and no-turn signs.
Upper Welburn residents believe that these traffic calming measures will improve safety for all drivers,pedestrians and cyclists. This issue is not about property values or semi-privatizing a road as some have suggested. It’s about ensuring that Upper Welburn is safe for everyone.