Whatever happened, you may be wondering, with the Waverly Drive speed zone alongside the athletic fields of South Albany High School? One way or another the issue is likely to come to a head this month or next.
In 2018, two southeast Albany residents asked the city council to get rid of this quarter-mile 20-mph zone, which is in effect from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on school days. They argued the zone was unnecessary considering the location — no school buildings nearby, a fence between the athletic fields and the street, nothing to obscure drivers’ sight lines, marked and signalized pedestrian crossings, and so forth.
Johnny Scot Van Ras got a speeding ticket there at 9:13 a.m. on Oct. 11, a Thursday. In November he complained to the council. He also pleaded not-guilty to speeding, and at 11:15 a.m. Monday he goes to trial in Albany Municipal Court, on the ground floor at City Hall.
In an email he wrote, “My position is that Waverly/SAHS is not a valid school zone because Oregon Department of Transportation states that ‘the school zone begins at the SCHOOL SPEED LIMIT sign and ends at the END SCHOOL SPEED LIMIT sign or END SCHOOL ZONE sign.'” Those zone-ending signs, he points out, are not there.
Except for the school zone, the normal speed limit there is 40 mph. Van Ras’s ticket says he was going 39.
In his email he asks that if a school zone is justified at all, it be designated with signs saying it’s in effect “when red lights flash.” “This would greatly aid the motorist,” he writes.
“I am asking for the support of the motorists of Albany,” he adds. “Write the mayor and your council representative and voice your opinion. You can also text me at 541-974-0723.”
According to Van Ras, ODOT says school zones should be determined on the basis of an engineering study, which apparently was not done on this one. The council has asked for such a study, and city transportation systems analyst Ron Irish said Wednesday he was almost done with a draft, waiting only to get comments back from the school district.
On Feb. 4, the Albany Traffic Safety Commission will review Irish’s study, and a final version is scheduled to be presented to the council at a work session on Feb. 25. Irish says the council has four options: do nothing, or eliminate the zone, or reduce its length, or change the signs to “when lights flash.”
As for the lack of zone-ending signs, Irish says there are options regarding how the ends of school zones in Albany are identified. “In my mind,” he adds, “that’s a separate issue from whether or not the Waverly school zone for SAHS should be eliminated or changed.”(hh)