City scraps plans for traffic signal near East Middle School

DOWNEY - A controversial plan to install a traffic signal on Woodruff Avenue outside East Middle School has been scrapped in favor of a crossing guard, although installation of a traffic device remains a possibility. The City Council met in special session Monday where they gathered input from residents living near Woodruff Avenue and Via Amorita, where the signal had been originally proposed.

Council members authorized the traffic signal in January but installation was delayed following protests from residents. This week, traffic engineers instead pitched a pedestrian-activated crosswalk beacon, referred to as the "HAWK," that when activated by a pedestrian allows 30 seconds for walkers to cross the intersection.

Traffic engineer Bill Zimmerman said the system would help alleviate some of the congestion that gridlocks the neighborhood before and after school by allowing "stop gaps" in traffic.

Residents weren't enamored with the HAWK either, calling it an eyesore.

"Excuse my sarcasm, but this HAWK, it's ugly. It can fly away," said Jennifer Alvarez, who lives at the southeast corner of Woodruff and Via Amorita.

According to Zimmerman, however, the city may be legally required to install a traffic calming device after a traffic study revealed safety concerns with parents dropping off their students in moving traffic. Failure to fix the problem could make Downey liable in the event of an accident, he said.

Council members will seek the advice of its attorney before deciding on the HAWK at a future council meeting. A state grant that would finance the HAWK's purchase and installation expires in three months so a decision is expected relatively quickly.

In the meantime, the council did elect to hire a crossing guard to shuttle students across Woodruff at Via Amorita. It also agreed to increase the green light time for vehicles turning onto Florence Avenue from Woodruff.