Agencies of all levels strive to address and remedy Pacific Coast Highway perils

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On Dec. 19, State Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin, along with Caltrans, CHP, and Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's representatives joined Malibu officials for a discussion on current and future measures to improve safety on PCH in Malibu and a tour of the highway. Photos Courtesy of City of Malibu. 

State officials tour the PCH to identify necessary changes as city launches its PCH safety webpage

By Barbara Burke

Special to The Malibu Times

Local, county, and state agencies continue to strongly focus on improving safety on the Pacific Coast Highway, a herculean effort that is now top of mind for the community and policymakers due to the Oct. 17 deaths of four Pepperdine students caused by a 22-year-old driver from Malibu who allegedly drove at an extremely high speed, lost control of his BMW, and careened into at least three cars on a segment of Pacific Coast Highway in East Malibu that locals call “Dead Man’s Curve.” The parked cars the driver hit slammed into the four victims, and they were pronounced dead at the scene.

It was yet another senseless tragedy on the imperiled PCH, which serves as Malibu’s main street.

In response to the public’s outcry and demands, the City of Malibu declared a local emergency on Nov. 13. Since then, the city has created a dynamic webpage to keep residents informed about the efforts to address PCH dangers. For more information about the city’s efforts to improve safety on PCH in Malibu, visit www.MalibuCity.org/PCHSafety.

On Dec. 19, California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin and other state and county officials were joined by Malibu Mayor Steve Uhring and Mayor Pro Tem Doug Stewart and other city employees who are tasked with trying to improve the PCH. The entourage toured PCH in Malibu to conduct a comprehensive assessment of safety conditions on the highway. The state delegation held a meeting with local and state elected officials, fostering inter-agency collaboration to address safety issues.

During the visit, officials from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) provided a guided tour, emphasizing key areas of focus and potential improvements. The tour included a somber walk of the crash site where the four Pepperdine students were killed.

“We’re thankful for the productive tour with Secretary Omishakin and State leaders and appreciate that we’re getting something done to make PCH safe and avoid future tragedies,” said Uhring on the state’s attention to the residents and community of Malibu.

The tour was described by a city press release as “a call to action to do everything that can be done to prevent future tragedies. The collaborative effort between local and state government officials is to avoid future fatalities, minimize injuries, and make PCH safe. Discussions included infrastructure enhancements, increased law enforcement presence, and educational initiatives to promote responsible driving.”

Stewart commented on the efforts of civic officials.

“We are receiving excellent cooperation from Supervisor Lindsey Horvath’s office as well as from Senator Ben Allen’s and Assemblymember Jaqui Irwin’s offices,” he said. “They have reached out to California Highway Patrol and Caltrans, and we are receiving additional support including the Caltrans Director issuing emergency orders for immediate actions on issues raised by the city and the sheriff.”

Stewart added, “We have scheduled a Council Review on Jan. 22 to conduct an assessment of the progress of all action items underway addressing PCH safety issues and to determine if anything else should be added to the to-do list.”

According to the city’s press release, further steps include the city, California Highway Patrol (CHP) and LA County working together to expand future patrols, designating PCH as a safety corridor as soon as possible, and moving legislation forward to deploy speed cameras on PCH as soon as feasible.

The press release added, “In a significant move to address immediate concerns, $4.25 million have been allocated under a Caltrans “Director’s Order” for infrastructure improvements along PCH. This funding will support projects to enhance safety and prevent further tragedies.”

CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee also announced a proactive measure to increase traffic enforcement in Malibu. Starting Jan. 1, a three-officer CHP task force will be deployed to enforce traffic regulations, in an effort to provide a heightened level of safety for residents and visitors alike.

A set of maps and more detailed information regarding projects to be completed under the Caltrans Director’s Order is available at tinyurl.com/CaltransDOList2023. The projects include installing more speed feedback signals along PCH, enhancing striping on the highway’s curves, installing pavement speed limit markings and curve warning signals, helping to fund four CHP units to perform speed enforcement along PCH during construction operations, updating the capital improvements and preventative maintenance projects, improving the Las Flores and PCH intersection in several ways in an area that is notorious for experiencing terrible collisions, and installing a pedestrian signal system at PCH and Carbon Canyon Road.

The PCH task force is a coalition of law enforcement, traffic engineers, Caltrans, and local and state elected officials who work collaboratively to find solutions to make PCH safer for all users driving between the McClure Tunnel in Santa Monica to County Line, according to the task force website.

The task force first met on Nov. 14 at City Hall. Sen. Bill Allen chaired the meeting. Readers can watch the meeting at www.youtube.com/watch?v=jn8C9npxBFc.

Another task force meeting was held on Dec. 13.

“I am pleased that Caltrans and the City of Malibu have already begun critical work on several short-term improvements to slow traffic and improve visibility on PCH, as outlined during the task force meeting earlier this week,” Allen stated on Dec. 16. “Coupled with increased enforcement from CHP, this is an important first step toward creating a safer roadway for residents and tourists. Through continued discussions with state and local leaders, we are also working toward long term solutions to transform this street from a dangerous highway to a safe boulevard. My hope is that we will have identified funding and a project timeline by our next meeting in early 2024.”

On Dec. 13, the city launched a new “dynamic webpage dedicated to keeping the community informed about ongoing efforts to improve safety conditions on PCH within Malibu city limits,” as stated in the press release, which added the webpage “is intended to serve as a central hub for updates, resources, and key information related to PCH safety projects and milestones.” 

Readers can find the website at malibucity.org/pchsafety.

The Malibu Times will continue to keep readers informed about the various efforts by state, county, and local agencies to address the imminent dangers on PCH.