Over the Hill

Make the Wellsona and Highway 101 intersection a ‘speed trap’

jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The Wellsona intersection north of Paso Robles is developing a reputation as a “death trap.”

I wish instead that it would develop a reputation as a “speed trap” — or, in other words, a reputation for having CHP officers behind every bush waiting to give traffic tickets for any violation, no matter how minor.

The Wellsona intersection is where Wellsona Road crosses Highway 101. The important word there is “crosses.” It doesn’t go over an overpass or under an underpass. Wellsona Road crosses Highway 101 at ground level.

The 7-mile stretch of Highway 101 between Paso Robles and San Miguel is not a freeway. It actually goes through five crossroads without overpasses or underpasses. But most motorists still drive on it as though it were a freeway. Most drivers don’t slow down or become more cautious.

A front-page article in Sunday’s Tribune said that since 2012 there have been 12 collisions at Highway 101 and Wellsona Road, which resulted in fatalities or serious injuries. A total of six people were killed there.

In addition, a person was killed in 2015 at Highway 101’s intersection with Monterey Road just north of Paso Robles — one of the other crossroads along the non-freeway stretch.

The Wellsona intersection probably gets the most collisions because it has a truck stop on one corner and an RV park on another. Some people, including me, have suggested at least installing traffic signals at the Wellsona intersection.

The article in Sunday’s Tribune quoted officials and experts who explained why the installation of traffic signal lights is a bad idea. To install such lights, or to lower the speed limit, could surprise drivers who are accustomed to driving at freeway speeds elsewhere on 101. They might do something dangerous.

We’re told that Highway 101 between Paso Robles and San Miguel has a lower priority than Highway 101 near Pismo Beach and Highway 227 near San Luis Obispo. About 70,000 vehicles per day drive past Pismo Beach, while only 15,000 go through the Wellsona intersection. I wonder if any of those locations have had six traffic deaths since 2012.

We’re told that Caltrans is planning some improvements for the Wellsona intersection. They include roadside lights, truck-crossing signs with flashing beacons and the redoing of striping. We’ll take what we can get.

We’re also told that the Wellsona intersection will be safe if we follow the speed limit, read the signs and don’t partake of any impairing substances.

I still prefer my first suggestion to direct the CHP to turn Highway 101 between Paso Robles and San Miguel into a “speed trap.” A reputation as a “speed trap” is the surest way to slow down traffic. That would keep it from being a “death trap.”

Phil Dirkx's column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 805-238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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