Traffic signal near East Middle School opposed by some residents

DOWNEY - Residents near East Middle School are speaking out against a proposed traffic signal the city plans to install this summer on a quiet residential street. At the request of the school district, the city council agreed last January to install the traffic light at Woodruff Avenue and Via Amorita, where several students have been hit by cars while darting in and out of traffic.

Its nearly $230,000 cost will be funded through federal grant money and gas tax funds.

However, a group of neighborhood residents - including a Downey Unified employee - recently raised concerns about the signal, calling it a drastic measure and an intrusion that may negatively effect their property values.

"I know we need safety measures for our students and I feel a crossing guard would be the answer," teacher Jennifer Alvarez wrote in an e-mail to Mayor Pro Tem Fernando Vasquez. The e-mail was distributed to local residents and the Patriot.

"I don't believe the city council had all of the facts or resident input when they voted on this action or maybe they would have realized that there are other options that would benefit the safety of the students as well as maintain the integrity of the neighborhood."

Mary Skill, who lives on Bigby Street, called the traffic signal "yuck-o." She also is in favor of hiring a crossing guard.

According to minutes from the Jan. 8 city council meeting when the signal was approved, assistant city manager John Oskoui said a crossing guard is already stationed at the intersection and would remain even after the traffic light is installed.

A meeting scheduled Tuesday afternoon between East Middle School officials and neighborhood residents was postponed at the last minute. A local resident has scheduled his own meeting for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Woodruff and Via Amorita.

In an interview Monday, Vasquez said he was sensitive to residents' apprehension and encouraged greater public outreach on the part of the city. But he reiterated the need to protect students.

"The safety of our children is our number one concern," Vasquez said. "Nevertheless, it's important to facilitate a forum for residents to share their concerns with our school officials and city staff."

Councilman Roger Brossmer, an administrator for the Downey Unified School District, said in January that "several" students had been hurt at the intersection.

A traffic study found that about 8,100 vehicles travel Woodruff Avenue every day in addition to 700 pedestrians, most of which are school-aged children.

"Given these traffic volumes, staff concluded that overall traffic safety could be enhanced through the installation of a traffic signal at this intersection..." city officials wrote in a report to council members.