No Zuma Beach U-turn deterrent in sight


Caltrans representative updates Public Safety Commission on PCH projects.

By Vicky Shere / Special to the Malibu Times

Dashing hopes for a permanent deterrent of illegal U-turns on Pacific Coast Highway at Zuma Beach this summer, a representative of the California Department of Transportation told Malibu’s Public Safety Commission that funding for a traffic separator could not be obtained for the current fiscal year.

The bad news was part of an otherwise upbeat report on Pacific Coast Highway projects presented last Wednesday.

While Mr. Son Dao, a Caltrans engineer, told commissioners about the status of existing projects or heard requests for new ones, Richard Calvin, Malibu Public Works superintendent, explained the bureaucratic procedure involved in bringing projects to fruition.

In other news from the two-hour presentation, commissioners learned that a traffic light might be installed at Corral Canyon and Pacific Coast Highway by the end of summer, and traffic lights have been synchronized from the McClure Tunnel in Santa Monica to Topanga Canyon Road to control signal timing based on traffic flow and time of year.

Calvin reported that he and Malibu Public Works Director/City Engineer Bob Brager, as well as Malibu Special Projects Manager Granville “Bow” Bowman, have been meeting with Caltrans to get the Corral Canyon traffic signal, funded by the state and city, installed, perhaps by the end of the summer. “We all have rules we have to live by,” Calvin said of the necessity of Caltrans issuing permits for rights of way and alignment. “We cannot circumvent what they do.”

City officials, who have been trying to get the temporary markers at Zuma Beach replaced since they were installed last July, were disappointed to learn that there was no funding for a permanent raised barrier at Zuma Beach in the near future. “We have millions of visitors [during the summer], Commission Chair Carol Randall said. “There will be chaos.”

“This is a safety issue,” Calvin said, referring to illegal U-turns made in the area. “Outsiders are not familiar with our speed limits or lane crossings. We encourage you to get the funding as soon as possible.”

Dao replied that he is trying to secure funding for the permanent barrier known as “Quick Curb” for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The traffic separator has a six- to eight-inch curb and separators spaced three feet apart rather than the 15-foot space between the temporary markers.

Regarding the traffic light synchronization project, Dao said Caltrans was “still on a learning curve.” He encouraged the public to report malfunctioning traffic lights to the Caltrans Public Affairs Office, 213.897.3656, in order to get the quickest repair.

In addition to Malibu-specific projects, Dao reported on the following projects of adjacent cities impacting Pacific Coast Highway this year: Pacific Coast Highway will be resurfaced from April through December 2008 (the night project resurfaces State Highway 1 from the McClure Tunnel through to Cross Creek Road), and the Palisades Bluffs Improvement project in Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades is expected to begin July 2008 and end June 2009.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Lou LaMonte, president of the Big Rock Mesas Property Owners Association, asked the commission for its help in getting Caltrans to install a left-turn signal at the intersection of Big Rock Drive and Pacific Coast Highway.

Presenting commissioners with a timeline of 10 years of effort on this request, LaMonte said a curve on the highway at Big Rock makes it difficult for northbound traffic to see vehicles turning left onto Big Rock from the southbound lane. The only action Caltrans has taken is to install “Bott Dot” markers on the yellow line leading to the intersection, LaMonte said.

Dao replied that traffic criteria at the intersection does not justify funding for the left-turn signal. He offered to check on installing “candlestick” lane markers.

Calvin explained that the state’s criteria to install traffic signals are complex, looking at multiple factors such as number of cars in the intersection in a given period, the number of accidents and safety issues.

“The state doesn’t care how you turn onto Big Rock,” Calvin said. “They’re more concerned with getting 10,000 cars a day traveling smoothly between Malibu and Santa Monica.”