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Radar Speed Signs

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SUN CITY WEST, Ariz. – Some drivers are lead-footing it through Sun City West, where speed can be more problematic.

“If you compare us to Surprise, Peoria and Glendale there is the same amount of speeding but in Sun City West it’s more of a consequence,” said Lt. John Merkel of the Sun City West Posse. “It’s more important to have less speeding in Sun City West because we have golf cars and we have older drivers who some don’t see as well as they use to and hear as well, making it very difficult for them to cope in an area where there is speeding.”

Fast drivers have prompted PORA to look at speed monitors.

“We are trying to get a successful grant to purchase two electronic radar signs,” PORA Vice President Merlyn Carlson said. “Those monitors will cost somewhere between $7,500 and $10,000.”

Mr. Carlson was unsure when PORA will be notified if it gets the grant or not. He said PORA would like to purchase a permanent monitor to be placed on R.H. Johnson Boulevard and a portable one to be used in problem spots.

Radar speed signs do slow down vehicles, according to studies. Permanent signs reduce speeding by 2-8 mph and portable or signs on trailers reduce speeding by 1-5 mph, according to a 2010 study by Montana State University’s Western Transportation Institute.

Although traffic on R.H. Johnson Boulevard is restricted to 35 mph, usually between 9 percent and 12 percent of vehicles are 10 miles over the speed limit, according to Mr. Merkel.

“We get speeds as high as the low 60s,” he said. “I think last month our highest speed was 54 mph.”

He noted that the county has posted very large speed limit signs every few blocks in the community so drivers cannot help but see them.

Mr. Merkel said about half of the violators are Sun City West residents and the other half are people coming into the community to work, or people who want to avoid the traffic lights on Grand Avenue and use R.H. Johnson as a cut-through to Bell Road or to get to Wickenburg, Wittmann and Sun City Grand.

“Frankly when I am sitting there watching traffic and I see a car gong 55 or 60 mph, often times it’s a person talking on a cell phone, texting or eating something,” Mr. Merkel said. “Often times, they don’t see me and I have a radar sticking out the window. Most of it is people not paying attention.”

Mr. Merkel, who is radar-certified, does speed counts by measuring the speed of cars at various places and times in the community and sends a monthly report to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office District 3 headquarters in Surprise for deputies to use in traffic enforcement. District 3 officials did not respond to questions from The Independent by press time.

Other than R.H. Johnson, Meeker Boulevard is another big hot spot for speeders.

Mr. Merkel’s speed count last month showed vehicles traveling more than 15 to 20 miles over the speed limit on Meeker.

“The traffic is a big concern for us because it’s a good deal of speeding near the rec centers and churches and there’re lots of golf carts in the area,” he said.

Mr. Merkel, who has been on the Posse’s radar group for six years, said speeding has not gotten worse during that time.

But he is concerned when the Fry’s Marketplace under construction on R.H. Johnson Boulevard opens for business in November, drawing more cars into the area.

He also said construction on Loop 303, the U.S. 60 and El Mirage Road scheduled later this year may prompt drivers to seek alternative routes by going through the community.

He said PORA and Posse representatives made known their traffic concerns with the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Mr. Merkel said if PORA is able to purchase the radar signs, it would help. Currently deputies and Posse members in marked patrol cars are visible deterrents to speeders.

Maricopa County Department of Transportation also is putting in safety enhancements in the community.

The department is scheduled to install a traffic signal, pavement marking and upgraded ADA ramps and other improvements at the intersection of Del Webb Boulevard and Hutton Drive beginning April 21, according to Robert Bonaski, MCDOT spokeswoman. The project is expected to be completed in June.

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