Letter to the Editor: Cemetery Hill speed limit – no politics

I have lived in Quincy since 1981. I cannot count the times I have crossed over Cemetery Hill on Hwy 70. At one point, many years ago, there was a proposal to reduce the 50 mph speed limit to 35 mph. I thought that is ridiculous and I guess many others did too because the idea was abandoned and I have never heard anyone even raise the idea again.

One day I am driving over Cemetery Hill at 40 mph and someone passes me at 50 mph perhaps a bit more than 50 mph. As I crest the hill and coast down the other side I noticed that they arrived at the bottom of the hill about 400 feet ahead of me. So, I thought let’s do the math. Admit it, you talk to yourself occasionally.

Going east on 70 from the 40 mph speed limit sign on the west side to the 40 mph speed limit on the east side is just under a mile. So, call it a mile. At 50 mph it takes ~1 min and 12 sec to travel that one mile. At 40 mph it takes ~1 min 30 sec to travel that mile. So, the person that passed me is 18 seconds ahead of me. Does 18 seconds really matter?

That quick example is all based on the presumption that both vehicles are averaging their respective speeds throughout the 1 mile. In reality the car going 50 mph had to accelerate from 25 mph to 40 mph to 50 mph while my vehicle accelerated from 25 to 40 mph. The result would be that their distance in front of me is about .25 miles or approximately 18 seconds. But, I observed that they were only about 400 feet in front of me. That is because going down the east side of the hill I coasted up to 50 mph without having to accelerate.


What are the cars doing during the time we are traveling up the west side of the hill? My vehicle at 40 mph is consuming gas at a steady rate to the top of the hill. The accelerating car is consuming gas at an ever-increasing rate until they get to 50 mph. Then, hopefully, they release their accelerator and the unburned fuel from the acceleration is sent down their tailpipe where it is combusted in the catalytic converter and less harmful exhaust products are sent out into the atmosphere for all to enjoy. So, for that 18 seconds gained the 50 mph car has spent more money on gasoline. At the bottom of the hill we both have to apply breaks to slow to 40 mph. The car going 50 mph has applied their brakes longer or more aggressively then I have had to. There is a cost associated with that braking action.

Is it really worth it to aggressively accelerate on the way up either side of Cemetery Hill? Every guy knows that if your vehicle is loud and you put your foot into it that women just faint at the display. There will always be folks that feel they must go faster. That is why there is a speed limit. In this case it is just a feeling and buys you nothing.

I am not suggesting a speed limit change crossing Cemetery Hill. You choose for yourself what the wiser speed limit may be.

While on the subject of speed a couple of truisms I have noticed about mountain driving. I commuted from Quincy to Greenville for 14 years. I noticed if you want to be at the head of the line of traffic just slow down. If you want to be at the back end of the traffic just drive faster. I am a firm believer of using turnouts. A courtesy overlooked by many flat landers.


Phil Shafer
Quincy, CA