Traffic task force set for safety on PCH

After two incidents of fatalities on Pacific Coast Highway last year, both caused by cross-over, head-on collisions, PCH Task Force committees are beginning to grapple with safety issues along the roadway.

The committees were created last fall by state Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl to come up with ways to prevent fatal accidents, improve signage and create a safer highway.

Next Thursday, task force members of the recently combined safety and traffic committees will discuss the highway in segments following a presentation by Caltrans. “The biggest thing that people are anxious to hear is what is the protocol for traffic signal outages and malfunctions that back up traffic,” said Laurie Newman, staff person in charge of the task force.

Among the improvements Caltrans is expected to present are a new type of preventive barrier for the highway, according to Newman. “What they’re planning to put in is something we’ve never seen. They are called rumble sticks. They are barrier strips that are used instead of raised dots,” Newman said. “Strips that are ground into the cement and you really feel the jolt if your tires go over them. That’s my understanding.” Newman said work on the new barriers could begin this spring.

The issue of jurisdiction over traffic signage and signal outage is also being addressed in a multimillion dollar project in conjunction with Caltrans that has gone out for bid. “It is called the PCH Traffic Management System,” said Newman. “They are going to design, construct and operate an efficient transportation system that will tie PCH into Caltrans’ system downtown.” Rather than being isolated, PCH will be electronically monitored, providing real-time traffic management.

Currently, local, county and state law-enforcement agencies are charged with supervising the highway. Creating a memorandum of understanding among the various groups has been among the goals of the task force. Kuehl said, “I’m very excited about the progress we’ve made and the extent of the community participation looking at these problems. I don’t believe there has been such a significant gathering to deal with these problems that I can remember. I believe we will move forward as early as this summer to begin carrying out the plans that we adopt in June.” According to Kuehl, the March meeting is the first of two that will be incorporated in a public meeting June 10. The Malibu segment of the March 25 meeting will take place between 1 – 3 p.m. at 1721 22nd Street, Santa Monica.

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