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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

December 13, 2013 -- Everyday around 3 p.m., when school lets out, Pico Boulevard between Lincoln Boulevard and 4th Street is flooded with thousands of Santa Monica High School students.

Despite signal lights and crosswalks at Lincoln Boulevard and 6th Street, kids rushing to catch busses, often sprint across four lanes and a divider in the middle of one of Santa Monica’s busiest streets where there is no designated crosswalk.

That’s why students associated with the nearby Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC) have begun calling for the City to fast-track plans for a new signal and crosswalk at one of the most popular -- and potentially most dangerous -- Pico Boulevard crossing zones: 7th Street.

"A crosswalk would be beneficial for students who are catching the bus and for when Santa Monica High School students need to cross Pico (Boulevard) to buy something for lunch," said Samohi Student Marcus Tapen.

While authorities said that there have been no pedestrian accidents on that block since 2008, they do warn that jaywalking in the area is hazardous.

“It’s dangerous to cross there,” said Lt. Richard Lewis with the Santa Monica Police Department. Lewis, who said officers are out there regularly, pointed out that a raised divider separating east- and west-bound traffic on Pico makes students crossing illegally harder for drivers to spot.

“We do issue lots of citations on that block for jaywalking,” he said. “Many of them are students.”

Despite those citations, Lewis said, students continue to cross at 7th Street.

Part of the issue, students said, is that the Big Blue Bus moved one of its stops from the Pico-Lincoln intersection, where there is a signal light, to 7th Street.

That stop serves one of the agency’s arterial bus lines that connects Santa Monica to Los Angeles’ subway system and Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue.

Many students rely on that bus to get to and from school and will often rush to catch it, though busses run about every 15 to 20 minutes.

The City is looking to its traffic engineers to help solve the problem.

“City staff is proposing a fully signalized intersection at Pico and 7th (Street) as part of our ‘Safe Routes to School’ project,” said Kate Vernez, assistant City Manager.

A signal at that intersection, Vernez said, would be part of the City’s plan to improve access to Santa Monica High School for pedestrians and bicyclists.

After three community meetings and a November 19 meeting with a PYFC youth group, Vernez said that City staff is ready to present initial plans to the City Council on February 11.

The project, she said, would be funded by Safe Routes to School grants.

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