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Council Extends "Traffic Calming" to Four Major Thoroughfares

By Jorge Casuso

Citing precedents in cities as far flung as Paris and Berlin, the City Council Tuesday night voted to expand to four of Santa Monica's busiest streets traffic calming measures experts say enhance pedestrian safety.

The measures - which were decried by several angry residents - are expected to be in place by 2002 along Wilshire, Santa Monica and Ocean Park boulevards, as well as Broadway. The $4.175 million plan will mirror similar measures already used on several streets - most notably Pico Boulevard - and add some new features.

The ambitious plan calls for pedestrian refuge islands (mostly on Wilshire), lights imbedded in the pavement that flash when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk, curb extensions, and countdown signals at busy intersections of the Third Street Promenade.

"It's a phenomenon that you're seeing across the country and it's growing," said John Kaliski, a consultant on the project. "We're not doing this on an aesthetic basis. We've used all of the best knowledge and practices out there and we're doing it as a human factor approach."

Some residents angrily opposed the measures, warning that they will only bottleneck traffic on already congested streets and lead to unsafe driving, even road rage.

"Stop the insanity," said Robin Waner. "This has gone way too far. You have limited the capacity of our wonderful streets. It's time for a revolution. It's time for drivers to take back the streets."

"You guys must be brain dead," said Chuck Allord, who is runing for City Council in November. "Curb extensions and islands slow down and stop traffic."

But city officials said that the measures struck a balance between keeping traffic flowing and protecting pedestrians trying to cross busy intersections.

"On balance the safety of people is worth it," said Mayor Ken Genser. "This is good for the community and there shouldn't be fear."

Some of the most heated debate centered on the pedestrian refuge islands that will be placed at 14 intersections along Wilshire, an exceptionally wide and busy thoroughfare. Some council members feared that the islands would give pedestrians a false sense of safety, confuse motorists and force them to drive on narrower lanes.

"I don't think it's safe for people to stop in the middle of the street," said Councilman Robert Holbrook. "I think we're going too far with narrowing Wilshire and putting islands in the middle."

"It puts the burden on pedestrians rather than on cars to stop," said Genser, who went along with the islands after staff assured him they enhanced pedestrian safety.

While most of the measures have been instituted in intersections across the city (most notably the pavement flashers, medians and curb extensions along Pico), others - such as the countdown signals on the Promenade - are new. The signals will countdown the seconds remaining for a pedestrian to cross the street.

Council members noted that many of the traffic calming measures have been used for years in other cities, especially in Europe.

"Paris, Stockholm and Berlin have had curb extensions for 30, 40 years," said Councilman Mike Feinstein. "I've seen it work."

"You don't have to go that far," Genser said. "They're used in Glendale, West Hollywood and other parts of Santa Monica."

Council members countered criticism from some residents by noting that public workshops were held for each of the streets, with residents helping to directly shape the plan.

"This came from the public," said Councilman Kevin McKeown. "This did not come from some pie in the sky idea. It came from the people of Santa Monica."

Following are the "traffic calming measures" by intersection:

Wilshire Boulevard
· Pedestrian refuge islands at uncontrolled crosswalks at 9th Street, 10th Street, 12th Street, 16th Street, 18th Street, 19th Street, 21st Street, 22nd Street, 24th Street, Chelsea Street, 25th Street, Princeton Street, Harvard Street, Stanford Street.
· Pedestrian signal near Franklin
· All signalized crosswalks will be zebra-striped because the entire length of the street is heavily utilized by pedestrians

Santa Monica Boulevard
· In-pavement flashers at 9th Street, Euclid Street, 15th Street, 18th Street, Princeton Street
· Pedestrian refuge island at 16th Street
· Pedestrian Signal at 21st Street
· Full Traffic Signal at Berkeley Street
· The signalized crosswalks from Lincoln Boulevard west will be zebra-striped, except for those receiving special pavement treatment as part of the future Transit Mall.
· Countdown Signal at the Third Street Promenade

Broadway
· Curb extensions at uncontrolled intersections at 10th Street, 12th Street, Euclid, 16th Street, 21st Street (existing marked crosswalk), Princeton Street, Harvard Street (existing marked crosswalk), Stanford Street (existing marked crosswalk), Franklin Street.
· Countdown Signal at the Third Street Promenade.
· Landscaped median islands will be added in the blocks between 26th Street and Centinela Avenue.
· Two intersections at Yale and Berkeley streets controlled by stop signs will also have curb extensions.

Ocean Park Boulevard
Main Street to Lincoln Boulevard:
· In-pavement flashers at 3rd Street.
· Install "Stop" sign at bottom of westbound 4th Street ramp onto Ocean Park Boulevard. Currently there is a "Stop" sign at the end of the ramp, past the 3rd Street crosswalk. The "Stop" sign will be added on the east side of the 3rd Street intersection.
· Re-orient existing crosswalks at SE corner of 3rd Street, SW corner of 5th Street and NW Corner of 5th Street to increase visibility.
· Improve "Stop" signage on 4th Street. The north and southbound through lanes on the 4th Street overpass currently have "Stop" pavement markings. These same pavement markings will be added to the adjacent left turning lanes that access the ramps to Ocean Park Boulevard.
· The 6th Street signal will be adjusted to be more responsive to pedestrians, particularly since it serves as a primary pedestrian crossing for SMASH and Will Rogers Schools.

Commercial Area Between 16th and 18th
· In-pavement Flashers and Curb Extensions on the eastern Side of 16th Street and at 18th Street.
· Zebra-Striping the Signalized Crosswalk at 17th Street. Neilson Way, Main Street and Lincoln Boulevard also will be zebra-striped.
· A marked crosswalk on the eastern leg of 25th Street at Clover Park. This will require the construction of new wheelchair ramps.
· A new zebra-striped uncontrolled crosswalk will be added from the NE corner of 30th Street to just west of the driveway on the south side of Ocean Boulevard

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