The City of West Hollywood has installed the first of a series of pedestrian crosswalks with stoplights on Santa Monica Boulevard.
The crosswalk, between North Orange Grove Avenue and North Ogden Drive, was activated on Wednesday last week. It replaces two unlighted crosswalks, one near Orange Grove and the other near Ogden.
The stoplight at the crosswalk can be activated by a pedestrian, who must push a button on a pole on the sidewalk. The light is coordinated with the traffic light at the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue to the west. City Engineer Sharon Perlstein said that coordination is necessary to keep traffic moving efficiently.
Perlstein said there are four more crosswalks with traffic signals in the works, all along Santa Monica Boulevard, the major traffic thoroughfare in West Hollywood. One will be at the intersection with West Knoll Drive, another at Hancock Avenue, one at Palm Avenue and finally one at the intersection with Westmount.
Perlstein said the Westmount project will include creating a cut in the Santa Monica Boulevard traffic median so that cars headed south on Westmount can make a left turn and drive east on Santa Monica Boulevard. Currently drivers in that area, must line up at the stop light at Westbourne Drive and make a U turn to head east on Santa Monica.
Residents demanded the city increase efforts to prevent pedestrians from being hit by cars after the death in August 2014 of Clinton Bounds. Bounds, who was inebriated, was hit by a car while walking across Santa Monica Boulevard at night. Initially it was believed he had been in the Hancock crosswalk, although photos later showed he was jaywalking.
Nevertheless local residents organized a demonstration, led by Larry Block, the clothing store owner and civic activist, to demand the city take steps to improve crosswalk safety.
A plan was developed by city staffers and presented to the City Council in October 2014. The Council approved various temporary safety measures but asked for a more in depth study of impacts on local businesses of some proposals. The city’s Community Development, Public Works and Public Safety departments presented a detailed report about measures underway or planned for pedestrian safety to the City Council in June of this year. It included plans for installing stop lights at the crosswalks on Santa Monica and also installing rapid-flashing lights at other areas where pedestrians cross busy streets.
Some residents, including Block, have complained about how long it has taken the city to implement pedestrian safety measures at the crosswalks and intersections. Perlstein acknowledged that the process is lengthy because of its complexity.
She said the the city had to engage a traffic engineering consultant to analyze traffic flow. It also has had to engage a consultant to prepare very detailed drawings for each individual project. After that work, the staff can request bids from contractors, which must be approved by the City Council for work to begin.
Perlstein said the analysis showed the need for some changes, such as replacing the two crosswalks at Orange Grove and Ogden with one with a stoplight and allowing the left turn from Westmount. Also, the city has decided to relocate an existing crosswalk on Santa Monica from one side of the intersection with Palm Avenue to the other.
Perlstein noted that construction of the crosswalk near Orange Grove and Ogden required investigating the location of utility lines, modification of curb lines and relocation of some parking spaces. A foundation for the traffic signals had to be installed and the traffic signal poles had to be constructed.
“A lot of equipment has to be custom ordered, and even the construction work takes some time because we have so much traffic there,” she said of the Santa Monica Boulevard projects.