City gets $900K for bike route; speed survey to be conducted

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Caltrans will conduct a speed survey along Pacific Coast Highway this summer. Other projects and ideas are in the works to help make the highway safer.

By Jimy Tallal / Special to the Malibu Times

Some projects that have been in the works to help make Pacific Coast Highway safer are coming to fruition. During Wednesday’s Public Safety Commission meeting, City Manager Jim Thorsen announced that the city received a $900,000 grant from Caltrans under its bicycle routes improvement project that will build a five-mile route from Trancas Canyon Road to Ventura County line. The Public Works Department had applied for the grant last October. Also, this week Caltrans began installation of “Qwick Curbs” (traffic separators) within the city.

The projects are part of years-long efforts to increase safety along the highway. After the fatal accidents in the past few months, city officials and citizens kicked into high gear attempts to find solutions and answers to the accidents that have plagued Pacific Coast Highway for decades. The Public Safety Commission announced last week that a Caltrans official will attend its monthly meetings, and local residents have formed the group, A.S.P.C.H, A Safer Pacific Coast Highway, to brainstorm ideas and work with officials from local to state departments to find ways to make the highway safer.

Jim Riley, transportation engineer for Caltrans’ Traffic Investigations Unit, who will be appearing at the monthly Public Safety Commission meetings, on Wednesday provided a long list of recent safety-related projects that Caltrans has completed on Pacific Coast Highway. These include: road resurfacing from Corral Canyon Road to Trancas Canyon Road (Fall 2009); installation of metal beam guardrails at six locations (west of Webb Way, Puerco Canyon Road, west of Paradise Cove Road, east of Kanan Road and east of Mulholland Hwy.); upgrading the pedestrian crosswalk 1,000 feet south of the Malibu Pier with warning signs and additional overhead flashing beacons; installing rumble strips in the center highway median from Winding Way to Busch Drive; and putting in traffic signals at the intersections of Corral Canyon Road and Zumirez Drive.

Currently, Caltrans is in the process of installing “Qwick Kurbs” on the highway at six locations: Bel-Air Bay Club Drive, Sunset Boulevard, Big Rock Drive, Las Flores Canyon Road, Morning View Drive, Guernsey Road and just south of Trancas Canyon Road.

Although it’s somewhat premature to measure the effects of these recent safety improvements, some of the previous changes made by Caltrans have had highly demonstrable effects on highway fatalities, Riley said. Most notably, since “candlesticks,” tall, yellow plastic markers that divide the highway, were installed on Pacific Coast Highway between Morning View Drive and Guernsey Drive in the summer of 2007, no fatalities or serious injury accidents have been reported. Prior to putting in the candlesticks, three fatalities and four injuries had occurred along that stretch of road in the previous six months. Candlesticks on the highway also appear to be cutting down the number of minor collisions near Geoffrey’s restaurant.

In 2005, after a collision on the highway killed two bicyclists, Caltrans and the PCH Safety Task Force formed by then Sen. Sheila Kuehl put up 18 “Share the Road” signs on the highway from Chautauqua to Decker Canyon Road. A new black and orange “Share the Road” sign for use on road construction closures was also designated. It is believed that only one bicycle fatality has occurred on the highway since that time. While the state-level safety task force has not met regularly, it will reconvene next month, most likely in Malibu, with current local legislators, Sen. Fran Pavley and Assemblymember Julia Brownley attending.

Bicycle route, speed evaluation in the works

The nearly one-million-dollar grant the city received from Caltrans will help build a bike route that will run from Trancas Canyon Road to Ventura County line, a distance of approximately five miles. It will be within the Caltrans right-of-way; and is distinguished as part of the California Coastal Bike Route. The city will be working with Caltrans on the final design.

City Manager Thorsen emphasized that a bike route is not the same as a designated bike lane. The project will involve special signage, striping, intersection improvements, minor grading and shoulder widening in some sections. Malibu’s Public Works Department submitted the grant application last October in an effort to improve safety conditions for bicyclists.

In an effort to address speeding problems, Riley said that Caltrans does a study to evaluate the speed limit for each segment of state highway every seven years, and Malibu’s portion of Pacific Coast Highway is due for evaluation this summer. He explained that a speed limit is set at 5 mph above to 5 mph below the speed that 85 percent of the cars on that segment of highway drive during the study. Therefore, it’s possible that speed limits on various segments of the highway could change as a result of the upcoming survey.

A number of additional safety improvements for the highway also in the works by Caltrans, and currently in the planning and design phase. Caltrans plans to install new curb ramps at various locations from Morning View Drive to County Line, rebuild washed-out road beds from south of Kanan Road to north of Trancas Canyon Road, repair corrugated metal pipes and an embankment near Winding Way, stabilize a slope near Via Escondido, and install an adaptive signal control system from Topanga Canyon Boulevard to John Tyler Drive.

ASPCH is working with Caltrans and the Public Safety Commission to formulate recommendations for additional signage, striping, cross walk enhancements, Qwick Kurbs, rumble strips and sidewalks along the Malibu portion of Pacific Coast Highway. A public relations campaign is also underway to educate the public on safe driving.