As water shot high into the air from a fire hydrant that had just been broken off in a traffic collision at Corral Hollow and Larch roads, Claudia Sanchez looked up at the plume in frustration.
“I have a 7-year-old child,” she said. “I have little nieces and nephews that come over to play all the time because we have ponies back there. But we also like to, you know, drive their little Jeeps up over here, and these cars drive by 80 miles an hour, even faster, when the speed limit is 45.”
The accident on April 3 involved two cars vying for position on the two-lane rural road just north of the entrance to the West Valley Mall. Sanchez, who has lived in her home near the intersection for the last 10 years, said it was only the latest in a long history of dangerous driving and accidents.
“I don’t let him play in the front yard at all because of this thing,” she said of her son. “One time a car crashed into our front yard. Took out this whole fence and was inside our property. This whole fence is brand new now because it took it all down and ended up right in front — barely missed our cars.”
Britni Shearer lives next door to Sanchez and her family and said people regularly speed past her home too.
“Yeah. All the time. … It’s pretty crazy,” she said. “We’ve seen crashes too. Where the hydrant was at the corner, that fence was just taken out a few months before they started renting that house. People take out fences all the time, end up in ditches.”
“Do you know how many pets have been killed?” Sanchez added. “I’ve had six pets that have been killed, just because of the speeders on this road.”
There are about a half-dozen homes in the quarter-mile strip where Sanchez and Shearer live. Both of their homes are about 20 feet away from the road. There are no speed limit signs nearby.
Shearer said cars speed up right as they start to drive past the houses “because they see the open road and they just take off.”
Dodgie Vidad is a traffic engineer with the San Joaquin County Department of Public Works. He said none of the neighbors had complained to his department about high-speed traffic.
“If it was on our radar, we would have investigated for that area. I’ve gotten a lot of calls for Corral Hollow south of Linne,” he said. “When we look at areas like that, we look at the roadway classifications. A lot of the roads in the county are designated either a local roadway, a collector, an arterial and such. There’s different levels of them.”
Local roadways are designed to carry the cars of people who live in that specific area. Arterial roads are the main streets that connect parts of town and the highways. Collectors link the two.
“Corral Hollow on this portion is listed as a major collector,” Vidad said. “You have this autoplex, a shopping center which is a high trip-generation source. That means that they bring traffic in and out. It feeds back into this collector. It feeds back into this road.”
According to CHP data for the area between the city limit just north of the West Valley Mall entrance and the group of homes on Corral Hollow, there were three traffic collisions on in 2017 and two more on Larch Road at that intersection. Speed was the main cause of only one of those crashes. In 2018, there were seven collisions on Corral Hollow, two were caused by cars breaking the double-yellow line to pass and three failure to yield to oncoming cars.
The speed limit posted on a sign in the southbound lanes about a half-mile north of the group of houses is 40 miles an hour. Vidad said the road width and layout have a lot to do with county planning.
“If we started treating a roadway like this as a residential and in the future it’s slated to become a multi-lane, then we would be in trouble,” he said, adding that it wouldn’t be possible to widen or improve the road if homes were built up to the street rather than set back.
Sanchez said she had complained to the county before, recalling that someone set up a trailer with a radar speed detector on it for a couple of weeks. Nothing happened after the county took it away.
“Next door the crash was so bad it ended up on top of the tree right in front of their house. Literally on top of the tree!” she said. “They have kids too! There’s a lot of little kids around here. It’s really dangerous and people just don’t care.”
Vidad said the neighbors’ best course of action was to let his department know about the issues they were having. Then the county public works staff will contact law enforcement agencies and begin looking at options for Corral Hollow.
“Go to sjgov.org, go to the bottom,” he said. “Go to Departments. Go to Department of Public Works, click on to that, go to the lower right-hand side and look for Divisions. Under Divisions, scroll down and look for Transportation Engineering. There’s a whole slew of information in there. Go to the GO Request and specifically ask for what you need.”
He said the neighbors would get a response from the county.
“At the moment our goal is to respond to them the same day,” Vidad said. “Try to, within three days, give a response, give an idea what the plan is. Within three days they should be hearing from us.”
He also said residents could call him directly at 468-3707 to let him know about the speed issues.
Sanchez and Shearer and their neighbor across the street could only shake their heads last week as they watched as firefighters and CHP officers cleared up the latest accident. For now, both mothers say they are reluctant to let their kids play in front of their homes, until something is done about the speeding.