Residents Hit Streets to Win Traffic Signals

Times Staff Writer

Living on 166th Street between Pioneer and Norwalk boulevards "is like living on a freeway," says longtime Norwalk resident Linda Garcia, who has observed about 100 traffic accidents along the half-mile stretch.

Garcia recalls such things as speeding cars "ripping down fences and landing in yards . . . one small boy jaywalking and having his leg broken, and another girl being paralyzed after being hit."

"It is dangerous," says the 25-year-old Garcia, who has lived in the same house for 23 years.

"I can remember my parents telling my brothers and sisters to stay in the yard and not to run into the streets. I constantly remind my children to stay in our fenced yard," said Garcia, the mother of four children ranging in age from 2 to 9.

"I remember when I was a kid," she said, "people knocking on our door to sign a petition to slow down traffic on the street. But nothing was ever done."

But something is being done now, due to recent efforts by Garcia and neighbors in both Norwalk and Artesia, which are divided by 166th Street.

After strenuous resident demands, both cities have agreed to

install traffic signals at the intersection of 166th Street and ElaineAvenue. Agreement from both cities was necessary, since they equally share maintenance and traffic control on 166th Street. The average daily volume on the four-lane thoroughfare is about 8,600 vehicles. The Lakewood sheriff's substation provides police enforcement.

Garcia said the residents were spurred by the death of a 4-year-old girl who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in July.

The child was killed when she ran from between parked cars into the path of a car headed westbound on 166th Street, said Norwalk sheriff's Deputy George Elwell. The driver, Elwell said, was not speeding.

"This tragedy got the people up in arms," said Norwalk Mayor Robert White.

Stop Signs, Slowdown Urged

Garcia and other residents gathered nearly 100 signatures demanding that the speed limit be lowered from 35 m.p.h. to 30 m.p.h. and that stop signs and crosswalks be placed on 166th Street at three intersections between Norwalk and Pioneer boulevards.

After a study of the problem by the Norwalk traffic engineering staff and an appearance by residents before the Norwalk Traffic Advisory Board, the Norwalk City Council agreed to install four-way stop signs at 166th and Elaine Avenue and 166th Street and Clarkdale Avenue. Norwalk also tentatively approved a traffic signal at Elaine Avenue and 166th, which is midway between Pioneer and Norwalk.

Artesia, though, disagreed that stop signs were needed. Backed by a study conducted by Los Angeles County's traffic division, Artesia City Manager B. Eugene Romig said that stop signs "would be ridiculous" and actually create a greater hazard.

At that point, Garcia and her supporters took to the streets.

"I had never been to City Hall before. I got my first taste of politics. I got fed up. I got mad," said Garcia, who led a group of demonstrators in front of Artesia City Hall in early September.

Garcia also led scores of protesters along 166th Street, carrying signs that urged motorists to adhere to the speed limit. The group also raised about $100 in donations for the dead girl's mother, who did not live in the area but was visiting relatives, Garcia said.

Signal Recommended

Romig said he then requested a second study. That study, done by private consultant George W. Brusher, recommended installing a traffic signal at the strip's midpoint. Norwalk agreed, and both city councils approved the installation last month.

A four-way traffic signal, which will cost an estimated $60,000 for construction, is expected to be installed in about four months, said Carmen F. Gendusa, Norwalk traffic engineer. The two cities will split the costs.

The "rest in red" signal, which is controlled by computer, remains red until a vehicle approaches. If the vehicle is traveling more than 30 m.p.h. it will have to come to a stop before the red light turns green. The light will turn green automatically for motorists traveling slower.

"The signal is not a cure-all," Gendusa said. "It is actually the last resort, the most costly to maintain."

But due to the urging of the citizens "after the little girl's death, we felt something had to be done," said Norwalk Councilman Marcial (Rod) Rodriguez.

"They (citizens) just took the bull by the horn and went after what they wanted and needed. I admire them for it, especially Mrs. Garcia," Rodriguez said.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World