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Slow it down, residents say

Citing beloved pets hit by cars, near misses between vehicles and local schoolchildren and the inability to walk safely into town, resident Ditson Hendricks hopes to reduce speed limits on Gold Hill's main thoroughfare.

Hendricks gathered nearly 90 signatures from fellow residents concerned with barreling traffic through the one-square-mile town. He plans to present it to the Jackson County Traffic Advisory Committee when it meets at 9:30 a.m. Friday at 200 Antelope Road, White City.

He hopes his efforts will result in reduced speed limits, traffic "stings" by local law enforcement and radar activated signs to tell motorists how fast they're going.

Starting from the east entrance into town, the speed limit is 40 mph over a two-lane bridge on Blackwell Road. It reduces to 35 mph on Second Avenue through the downtown core but increases to 35, 45 and 55 mph within less than a half-mile span. 

"It's just a really unacceptable situation and I haven't found anyone who disagrees with me," said Hendricks. whose front door is a car length from the edge of the road.

"We like to walk but it's very dangerous. Semis that are double-loaded and speeding — it's just intimidating how close and how fast they go by. I never realized just how bad it really was and I really don't know if we'll stay if we can't get things slowed down out there."

Larry Ford, who often works at a classic car shop on the west end of town, said traffic speeds through town often seem excessive for an area with so much pedestrian traffic.

"I drive through here at 25 mph because it just feels right, like an acceptable rate of speed," Ford said.

"I've just been through Nevada and the speed limit is 80 mph — until you get into a town. There could be only three buildings there and it's 25 mph. I watched a car speed by this morning and it hurt my neck to watch them go by."

Ford said the posted 30 mph speed limit "wouldn't be so bad" if drivers didn't drive 5-10 mph over.

Longtime resident Nancy Arasmith lost her pet, a 12-year-old Chihuahua, last week when the dog ventured into her front yard near Ray's Market and was hit by a car on the shoulder of the road.

Arasmith said she sees "near misses" between pedestrians and vehicles on a regular basis, especially during mornings and afternoons when schoolchildren walk down both sides of the two-lane highway.

"I can hardly get across the street in time without getting run over," said the retiree who uses a mobility scooter.

"It's the only road that goes all the way through town and there's two schools up here so the kids walk on both sides. It's just really dangerous. The kids don't really watch before they whip out into traffic and the cars aren't watching, either."

Having done his homework, Hendricks, a retired building inspector, has charted the city's meandering speed limits, governed by the state, and drafted a list of suggestions he will present Friday.

He's suggesting the speed limit on the bridge be reduced from 40 to 25 mph in addition to speed reductions near the city's business district, near Del Rio Vineyards and between the vineyards and the city of Rogue River.

Jackson County Roads engineer Mike Kuntz applauded any citizen effort to improve pedestrian safety in the town. Kuntz said his committee, while orchestrated at a county level, is a monthly roundhouse discussion to identify traffic concerns and facilitate dialogue between agencies.

While county officials have no jurisdiction over most of Hendricks' concerns, Kuntz said the advisory committee would put the information in front of agencies that could provide solutions.

"Probably some of his ideas have a pretty good chance of happening and others do not, but we'll see what happens," Kuntz said, noting that the Gold Hill City Council formally requested that Oregon Department of Transportation officials address the issue of speeding motorists through town.

"I'm only involved because its being brought up in the committee that I chair, but this is the best place to get the conversation started. The speeds set for traffic going through town are not atypical, but it's not uncommon for them to be lower, too."

Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Ditson Hendricks says cars routinely speed past his home on Second Avenue in Gold Hill. Hendricks recently started a petition to get the speed reduced along the highway. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch
Gold Hill residents will take their concerns about speeding traffic to county officials. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch