45 mph Zone: Study proposes lowering speed limit to increase safety on the Arroyo Seco Parkway

Arroyo Seco Parkway/Photo by Martha Benedict

The curving Arroyo Seco Parkway – which  opened more than 70 years ago as Los Angeles’ first freeway- was designed when traffic moved much more slowly. The combination of today’s faster,  modern cars and trucks and the highway’s vintage design has lead to countless accidents over the years.   How to make the historic highway safer? A recent $650,000 study – the Historic Arroyo Seco Parkway Corridor Partnership Plan – funded by Caltrans and other agencies included numerous proposals. But there is one that might not sit well with L.A.’s  speed-loving motorists: lower the parkway speed limit to 45 mph from 55 mph.  The Pasadena Star-News reports that the report recommends adopting a 45 mph on the 110 between Glenarm Street in Pasadena on the north and the 5 Freeway in Cypress Park.  Tim Brick of Pasadena, president of the Arroyo Seco Foundation, told the Star-News:

“Because of the unusual way the parkway is designed with really short off- and onramps, it would enhance the safety of the parkway if there were a more reasonable speed limit.”

Caltrans has been free to lower the speed limit on the highway  since the freeway was reclassified as a parkway.  But it’s not clear when and if Caltrans will make that change.  The highway agency recently finished a round of open houses to gather public reaction before preparing a final set of changes to be implemented.  Of course,  with so many motorists currently driving faster than 55 mph, how many would abide by a 45 mph limit?


  1. Excellent proposal. Bring the speed limit down and a greater CHP presence.

  2. It’s a great plan for raising revenue through speeding tickets. They’ve got to make a return on that $650,000 investment.

    How about bringing the speed limit down to 15 mph? Surely that will increase safety.

    Or how about closing it off to cars, and making it a bikeway… that will be safer and people need the exercise anyway.

  3. The last sentence says it all. And I never, ever saw the freeway patrol ticketing anybody on that stretch of the 110!

  4. If people would simply drive the currently posted speed limit and leave reasonable space between themselves and the car in front there would be no problem. Add to that just plain courteousness and there is no reason to lower the speed limit. CHP yes!

    • Big Sausage Lover

      The problem and cause of accidents are the people driving 45mph in the fast line causing other frustrated motorists to undertake.
      There’s nothing wrong with the current speed limit on that section of the 110, the focus should be on driver education, the driving test is too easy and there are far too many poor drivers who lack the etiquette of driving with others in mind.

  5. I think lowering it to 45mph is a great idea. There are too many deaths on this part of the freeway. Entering the freeway was always scary with how fast cars came zipping around the curves. To be expected to go from completely stopped to freeway speed so quickly is crazy.

    I see so many near-misses and close calls each time I drive this stretch. Something needs to be done, because too many of the drivers have little regard for the safety and lives of others on the road.

    The 110 is curvy with the short entrances and exits, plus there are no shoulders. Within the past year, though, I have seen a lot more highway patrol and police cars deliberately slowing the traffic. I think it’s a good thing.

    • Big Sausage Lover

      The US has never provided adequately long merging lanes to enter the freeway like in Europe.

      • Perhaps you’re not familiar with that freeway. At many of the entrances, there is NO acceleration lane nor merging lane.

        The road was originally built before those concepts were realized. ONe major thing needed there is to fix those on-ramps so there is space for a pickup lane. I have to think the current situation with no pickup lane is a major contributing factor to accident number there — not the 55 mph speed limit. I’ve driven that road often, and the 55 mph limit is not unsafe. But the short or non-existent pickup lanes are. Drivers won’t be able to get from 0 to 45 in a split second anymore than they can from 0 to 55.

        • I actually love driving this freeway, but I’m grateful to drive a stick shift that accelerates quickly. Part of the problem is people who cut into the “slow” lane and use it as a passing lane. Is the picture of the Avenue 43 exit? Didn’t someone die there recently?

    • Completely agree. I drive this freeway every day. Currently most folks drive it at 65 mph. Bringing the speed limit down to 45 mph will mean that people will be driving it at 55 mph–a safe and sane speed for that freeway.

  6. I figured this out years ago and it didn’t cost $650,000 to do it. It’s a shame they didn’t spend the money on CHP patrols to enforce the existing speed limit.

    BTW, the 45 MPH restriction will be another argument Caltans and Metro will use for building a new freeway (that likely wouldn’t be free) with a 65 or 70 mph posted speed limit through the area in the form of the 710 extension.

    • Yup. And this terrifies me. I live in Garvanza near Ave 64 where they are proposing to run the new stretch of the 710. I don’t understand how they’re gonna get off doing that though. They just made this area an HPOZ. Could they declare eminent domain on historic properties in order to bulldoze them?

  7. I think ticketing speeders might create a problem. Where would you pull all these people over. The design is really due for an update.

  8. Absolutely must be done, along with CHP speeding enforcement. Also would love signage telling thru traffic to merge left. After all these years I’m puzzled by how many people drive in the right lane, despite how obviously dangerous it is to merge from a stop sign directly into 55+ MPH traffic

    • I agree. And more signs with the posted limit. It’s far too easy to miss the few signs there are.

      • That is exactly what needs to be done. Designate the lanes. Not lower the speed limit. I have been driving that freeway almost daily for the past 10 years. Several of those years daily when I lived in Garvanza. It’s not how fast everyone is driving. It’s the fact that most people really cant drive. When you have short off and on ramps that means two things. The right lane should be only allowed for either getting off the freeway or getting on the freeway. Thats it. Signs should be posted as you enter the freeway telling you to merge as soon you can and on the freeway letting know to not use the right lane until you are ready to exit. If you drive this road enough you learn that on your own. Well Some of do. Lowering the speed limit 10 mph is not going to change any of that. Thats where the problems come from. People freaking out when a car gets on too slow or when someone getting off freaks out when the off ramp is so quick. Stay out of the right lane. And learn to control a car. And that cost 650000. Amazing.

  9. Lowering the speed limit to 45 mph because people do not obey the currently posted speed limit does not make sense. What is needed is ENFORCEMENT of the current posted speed limit. Why does anyone think drivers will obey a lower speed limit when they are ignoring the current higher limit? Makes no sense at all. There is another agenda at work here.
    We can all help by driving the speed limit on the parkway.

  10. There need to be a lot more signs with the 55 mph. People drive 65 or 70 like they’ve never seen one.

    • Same goes for the Hollywood freeway, most of the Harbor freeway, and parts of the 5 and 10 near downtown – all 55mph – but signage is so sparse that most people don’t even realize.

  11. All of the above.

  12. You people need to speed up. The freeway wouldn’t be so dangerous if I didn’t have to zip around all you slow pokes already driving 45 mph.

    • Surely you’re joking? You are the problem we are talking about here.

      • Slower Traffic KEEP RIGHT

        Corey is correct. It is the slow, oblivious drivers that are more dangerous than the ones driving the speed limit or even those speeding, especially when the pokey drivers are in the “fast lane”. For me, it has never been a speeding German sports car that has caused a near-miss. Instead, it is always the utterly clueless drivers that can’t keep their cars in their lane, who brake abruptly at curves and don’t move over for cars going the speed limit. “SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT”

        • Big Sausage Lover

          Bravo for common sense!!!!

          SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT, posted in Spanish and Cantonese!!!!

        • I’m about 99% sure that such a sign already exists on that stretch of the 110- but not in Spanish.

        • The Hill Street exit is on the left. That is why slower drivers, many of whom plan to exit on Hill, move to the left.

          The 45-mile speed limit will cause a back-up and congestion on the streets in Highland Park that feed into the freeway. Some years ago, the city placed stop signs at some of our exits, causing back-ups on the freeway itself. Enforcing the current speed limit is the most sensible solution.

          I’m with the comment that states that this slower speed limit is a ruse to try to soften up people in our area to the idea of 710 extension through it. We live between the 110 and the 2 freeways. That’s enough. The real problem in LA is the lack of light rail from downtown LA to Santa Monica and Venice. People who live in Santa Monica have a terrible problem with congestion on their streets and the 10 and 405 Freeway. The 110 Freeway is not a priority.

          • I don’t see any link between the parkway plan and the (completely insane) 710 proposals. They seem to represent opposing impulses: one to tame freeways, the other to let them run roughshod over all that might be in their path.

            Compared to almost any other freeway I take, the 110 doesn’t have serious congestion. Northbound, once you’re past the 5, you’re fine.

          • now you can take the blue line to culver city and they are preparing it to go to the beach via bergamot station, but it’s not looking so easy you have to pay two fares to change trains and there is a dangerous turn just outside of downtown that Metro has to improve.

        • AMEN! If you cannot handle driving on this stretch of freeway at 55mph (or your vehicle can’t), you should not have a license/shouldn’t be driving. Everyone can read into that however they want. End of story.

          • The Arroyo Seco parkway simply wasn’t built to accommodate 55mph (much less 70-80, which is common). It was engineered for 45mph, which is why it lacks modern on/offramps and has such tight curves. At some point, CalTrans put up railing, raised the speed limit and started posting signs calling it a “freeway”, but they never updated the curves or ramps that make it dangerous to drive at those speeds.

            Apparently they’ve realized this and want to fix things. Lowering the speed limit, planting trees in the median and removing the railing and freeway look/feel will help slow the traffic flow to it’s proper speed… and ultimately it will save lives and reduce maintenance costs. The other solution would be to upgrade the ramps and curves, but that would cost billions and destroy historic communities?

            IMO, building more freeways in LA is like giving a fat man a bigger belt. And maximizing speeds in high traffic areas just creates greater bottlenecks: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/transport/2011/10/rolling_speed_harmonization_how_colorado_fights_congestion_on_i_.html

          • It may have been engineered for 45 mph at the time but so were cars. Modern cars have no problem accelerating adequately it’s the drivers that are the problem trying to pass on the right. At the most I could see making exits like the Orange Grove offramp which has two lanes and an exit lane that forces an exit might make sense but 55 mph is not the problem.

  13. What if they just don’t allow people to cruise in the right lane? That lane should be for entrance and exit only. Then the people trying to accelerate from 0 to 55 mph in a short time will have a much longer time to do so. Further, the people exiting on will only have fellow exiters behind them. I do this already. More people should do it on their own as a courtesy to the other drivers!

    • I do this, too. I wish they would make it law. I also agree with others who suggest more signage posted about the speed limit.

    • Yes, make the right lane a merge lane only with markings and stripes showing where you may enter this lane to exit only and when entering the freeway more lines to indicate your merge area into the middle lane. Those that like to cruise the right lane are usually the speeders who use it to dangerously pass other cars on the right.

  14. Drive it every day. Tricky road, but here’s the thing: slow people stay in the middle, everyone stay out of the right lane as much as possible to let people entering freeway do so safely, and keep left lane for people not going 45 mph. No need to lower the limit, or more CHP, just a clue as to how to drive on that road.

  15. I see The whole parkway is like a closed system so we can do some creative things.

    1. one idea is to convert it to a tollway, but with transponders to collect or you get a bill that you can pay online or that’s tacked on to your registration fees if you don’t pay. All fees should be put back into the admin and upkeep of the parkway

    2. Let’ s reward those who go 55 or slower by getting some of the fine from the person who gets a speeding ticket. Technology exists to capture vehicle information and give a percentage of the fine to everyone prior.

    3. Install speed dimples prior to all exits to encourage drivers to slow down prior to exits. An added bonus is that it could also help those entering the parkway.

    These are only ideas…..

  16. Makes sense, considering that’s what the parkway was engineered for.

  17. It’s probably a good idea to lower the speed limit. People drive like total assholes on that stretch of road. They should also ticket people who stay in the right lane. The right lane should only be for entering and exiting the freeway.

  18. The new speed limit will be ignored just like the current one is. I don’t take the 110 often, but when I do, if I am not going at least 65, I get blown off the road. CHP should make this road a high priority for ticketing. It would be like shooting fish in a barrel. I’d be interesting in seeing how many serious injury/fatal accidents this road averages in comparison to other freeways in the area. It seems like someone is killed every week on the 10 or the 60 through East LA.

  19. To get drivers to go 55 they should post 45 to get drivers to go 45 they should post 35. It is human nature to push the speed limit if no cops are present. This road is dangerous for all who are not very famillar with all the turns and crazy on and offs and forget about buzzed drivers they end up in the river! It won’t make a significant difference on such a small strip of road to slow down between Pasadena and Elysin park. I wouldn’t mind going slower to make the whole road safer for everybody. Any slower speed limit is quicker than getting stuck behind an accident, which happens all to often.

  20. Anyone who drives regularly on this “parkway” will know that the problem is the ridiculously abrupt off- and on-ramps. Short of blowing it up and starting over, changing the speed limit isn’t going to change a thing. Cops can’t stop anyone either because there is just no place to safely pull over!

    • Exactly, CS. Drivers have to adapt to the conditions of the freeway. And that means staying the hell out of the right lane unless you are exiting, and staying in the middle lane if you are going 45. This second recommendation is common sense on all LA freeways, everyone knows slow traffic stays in the middle lanes.

      • Agree. Really pisses me off when I’m waiting at the on ramp trying to get onto the freeway and some idiot in the middle lane, for reasons unknown, decides to pass on the right just as I am about to accelerate onto the very same right lane.

  21. This is clearly an attempt to reclaim some of the cash they wasted on period-correct streetlights and the 2 years of pointless construction on the median via an uptick in speeding tickets.

    If you cannot handle driving on this road at 55mph, the problem is not the roadway, it’s you. Stop trying to text, stop driving under the speed limit in the passing lane, and a get tune up.

    The lowest common denominator strikes yet again. It’s pathetic.

  22. The first time I drove on this freeway when I moved to LA at age 20 (20 years ago) I felt alive as hell. Best freeway ever. It will always have a special nostalgic little speedy place in my heart.

  23. Aldo Thee Apache

    Wait Wait Wait I have the solution. Make the fast lane 10 miles an hour with a free In N Out drive thru every 1/4 mile. Make the low lane 95 miles an hour but only for old Geo Metros. Make the center lane a bike lane and then turn the on-ramps into community gardens and dog parks.
    There, FIXED.

  24. It is not safe for CHP to patrol this freeway. Lowering the speed limit is not the answer either. Maybe bigger speed limit signs and brighter painted lines in between the lanes.

    CHP can not patrol this area on motorcycles. Even in cars it is just too danagerous for them. Maybe enforcement by air.

  25. No 710 extension. It would destroy neighborhoods all over Northeast.

  26. A 45, or other posted slow speed limit will not improve safety along the 110. It will make things WORSE. The Caltrans proposal was made under the (false) assumption that people driving on the 110 will obey speed limits. No. speed limit signs will only anger many drivers, causing them to drive erratically, making conditions more unsafe.

    Go after the boneheads that race 2- and 4-wheeled vehicles on the 110 late at night, and Caltrans safety stats for the 110 will improve dramatically. BTW, in my 40 years in the area, I’ve NEVER seen CHP on the 110.

    Better idea to use signage or lane markings to encourage through traffic in the left lane.

    Speaking of freeways – NO 710 extensions or alternates ANYWHERE, on AVenue 64, above or below ground.

  27. That is my favorite freeway in LA. I can easily drive it 70mph all the way. Especially that almost 90 degree turn before you exit at ave 64. It’s so much fun. I don’t think lowering the speed would make much sense because then you would get more traffic build up on both directions, not to mention the slow pokes in the fast lane. Yes those exits are a bugger but if there were clearer signs, lit up ones with led lights that advise you to slow down to 5mph like a quarter mile before the exits then people might actually start paying attention to them. I drive that freeway all the time, so i know what to expect, but for those that don’t its a little intimidating and with out clear marked lanes or signs they get confused. Could also put in a stop light system that would know you have enough distance and time to enter the freeway, since there are no merging lanes. I am really glad that they finally improved the center barrier from the wooden one to a concrete one.

  28. Every one keeps talking about how that freeway was designed for a 45mph speed limit. Exactly because the cars back then couldn’t handle that road much faster. But todays cars can. You cant even compare the cars of the 40’s to the cars of today in handling braking and acceleration. No comparison. Its not the speed limit or the cars or the road. It’s the lack of driving skills, the lack of common sense ( use the right lane for entering and exiting only!)

  29. Love it. It is 55 now and people go 65-70. Lower it to 45 and they’ll go 55-60.

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