Efforts to slow traffic moving too slow for some

DOWNEY - Council members David Gafin and Mario Guerra didn't exactly take a calm view of things when the status of the city's traffic calming program was presented to the council last week.The report traced how the city council on May 13, 2008 adopted its neighborhood traffic calming policy addressing residents' concerns about vehicular speed and volume on residential streets. Its champion on the council was Gafin. A program update presented by staff on March 9, 2010, detailing some 66 initial calming requests from the public (since whittled down to 45 eligible requests) led to a council directive to prioritize those locations where traffic calming measures were most warranted, to continue with the review of the other requests otherwise, and to begin implementation of the following "Stage I" measures where applicable: 1) at the minimum, the installation of radar-equipped semi-permanent solar-powered vehicle speed feedback signs, 2) deployment of radar speed trailers, 3) traffic enforcement actions (greater police presence), and 4) installation of traffic signage as well as pavement markings where advisable (as reminders to slow down, etc.). Based on the relevant speed surveys and accident reports on the several indicated locations, the five council members each picked two locations in their districts they deemed in immediate need of calming measures. These 10 locations were: District 1: Dunrobin Avenue (from Washburn Road to Spry Street), and Donovan Street (from Lakewood Boulevard to Birchdale Avenue); District 2: Rives Avenue (from Stewart & Gray Road to Quill Drive), and Old River School Road (from Stewart & Gray Road to Imperial Highway.); District 3: Tweedy Lane (from Florence Avenue to Gallatin Road), and 7th Street (from Paramount Boulevard to Smallwood Avenue); District 4: Pangborn Avenue (from Firestone Boulevard to Cecilia Street), and Chaney Avenue (from Florence Avenue to Cecilia Street); and District 5: Barlin Avenue (from Imperial Highway to Gardendale Street), and Smallwood Avenue (from Imperial Highway to Puritan Street). Funding for these projects, especially on the speed feedback signs, is covered by an $180,000 federal grant from the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) and some $50,000 from gas tax funds, or even including, in the case of the so-called "Stage II"-qualifying requests (neighborhood consensus through a petition process, etc.,) funding by residents themselves. Stage II measures, according to the department of public works' Edwin Norris, are to be undertaken should some of the Stage I measures fail to accomplish their purpose, among them: speed humps; speed tables; mini roundabouts; curb extensions, chokers and chicanes; and street closures and cul-de-sacs; etc. But, of course, the whole process has taken time to develop. First, all this has had to be coordinated with Caltrans as well as the federal Transportation Improvement Program; preliminary engineering/engineering documents had to be submitted and approved; and once the signal for the construction package is given, the authorization request gets forwarded to Caltrans headquarters in Sacramento, then to the federal Highway Administration in Washington, D.C., then and only then the authorization to proceed with construction can be issued. Indications are that dealing with Caltrans nowadays are on a crawl basis, as the agency has had to deal with a heavy work overload and other matters. Thus the earliest Caltrans can come up with the go-ahead to construct will be March of 2011, and a lag time of two to three months before actual construction can begin. All this notwithstanding, both Gafin and Guerra expressed dissatisfaction at the slow pace of things. "It took a lot of time for the program to get rolling," said Gafin, "and while more police patrols with traffic radar guns are out there issuing tickets, and while we're waiting for the signs, we need to pick up the pace. The signs are just one part of the whole program." Guerra agrees, saying, "We need to be more aggressive. We should look at what's best for the city. To do this, we need to think outside the box." He mentioned the case of Rives Avenue where a center line has served to slow down traffic, the reduced number of accidents when medians are constructed because this controls the flow of traffic , the role such measures as speed humps can play, etc. Gafin and Guerra both reiterated the great goal of the traffic calming program: "to slow down traffic where it needs slowing, and make streets safer for our residents." This applies to residential, collector, and arterial, etc. streets. "At this point I'm frustrated," Guerra said. "Like I said, we need to be more aggressive on this, we need to look at more options." The next program update is scheduled in December.

********** Published: August 19, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 18