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Humboldt County Public Works taking preliminary steps to improve safety on Hiller Road

Many people who live on Hiller Road in McKinleyville believe it's only a matter of time before something serious happens as a result of the unsafe traffic conditions plaguing their street.

On the surface, Hiller Road looks like any other residential street in America. However, the street's traffic regulations are what sets it apart.

Kelly Eckberg lives on Hiller Road. She is one of the residents who has taken more of a leadership role to alert the county of these dangerous conditions that need to be addressed.

"We started talking to our new neighbors, and we understood this was really an issue with almost everybody who lives on the street," Eckberg said.

Hiller Road stretches just over a mile in McKinleyville. It is a street that supports only residential traffic with a speed limit of 35 mph. It also contains only one stop sign between its start and end points.

"What we have investigated, every residential area in McKinleyville, Arcata, and Eureka is 25 miles an hour, and we are strictly residential here," Eckberg said. "The fact that there is no stop sign for nearly a mile allows for a lot of acceleration, so people are very aware that as people from outlying areas turn onto Hiller Road, they immediately accelerate."

The road intersects Hammond Trail, and Hiller Park calls the street's western half home. Those are two of McKinleyville's brightest spots and see a lot of traffic both during the week and over weekends. Families frequent the park's baseball and soccer fields for practices and games.

These are the areas that Eckberg says are the most dangerous and where the closest calls are happening. She and some of the other street's residents have alerted the county of the danger.

"We've been looking at the trail crossing, and that's an area where we've been looking at possibly reducing the speed limit to 25 and also greatly enhancing the crosswalk," Humboldt County Public Works Director Tom Mattson said. "The crosswalk there doesn't really look like a crosswalk. It needs to be much more visible. Next steps after that would be additional signing for pedestrians. It actually looks to be a pretty good place for a speed table if the community would support that."

Mattson said fixes like adjusting the speed limit and putting in a crosswalk are very low cost. However, installing a speed table, or speed bump, costs $4,000-5,000, while a lighted crosswalk could cost anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000.

"Those are things we can talk about," Mattson said. "But then if the community decides that they want public works to install those, we'll have to look for the funding because that's just not something we can pull right out of our hat."

Eckberg said she has been encouraged by the action and concern the county has taken to make Hiller Road safer, but she stresses that the improvements need to implemented sooner rather than later.

"All of the people who use Hammond Trail, which are hikers, cyclists, people on horseback, and a lot of mothers pushing their baby strollers with toddlers and dogs with them, have to negotiate crossing a street that's 35 miles an hour with no stop signs," Eckberg said.

"People drive too fast, plain and simply," Mattson said. "In a community like that, people should be driving slower. So we need to enhance where they're crossing, so people can see that and slow down, and realize that there are people crossing the road there."

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