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Traffic Safety to Get Review in Newport

Times Staff Writer

Responding to concerns of residents whose Balboa Peninsula neighborhood was the site of a shocking hit-and-run death, the Newport Beach City Council on Monday vowed to consider a citywide examination of traffic safety measures.

“I’m really sorry that we had this tragedy to make us aware we’ve got a problem,” Councilwoman Ruthelyn Plummer said.

She was referring to the death of Debbie Killelea, a 37-year-old mother of three who on Sept. 1 was struck by a speeding car and thrown 50 feet in the alley behind her Ocean Boulevard home. Killelea, who pushed her two sons to safety before she was hit, died during surgery three hours after the crash.

Just as her friends did Monday, Killelea had urged city officials to put speed bumps in the alley that beachgoers so often use in search of parking.

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At a study session, the seven-member City Council expressed its sorrow about the accident as it listened to five residents plead for speed bumps, more stop signs, one-way traffic in the alley and other traffic safety ideas.

“I feel this will be a tribute to Debbie Killelea more than anything else,” said Dayna Pettit, president of the Balboa Peninsula Point Assn., a 500-member homeowners group to which Killelea belonged.

Committee Meets Today

Ideas generated by council members and the residents will be considered by the council’s Traffic Affairs Committee, which meets today.

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A hastily prepared report by Kenneth J. Delino, assistant to the city manager, noted that speed humps--broader and longer and less jarring to vehicles than bumps--are being considered or used by six cities in California.

“Over the years, and most recently after the Labor Day Weekend incident, council members have questioned the feasibility of slowing traffic by the use of speed bumps,” Delino’s memo said. ". . . A wider speed ‘hump’ has been developed with a more gradual slope. These create less of a jarring motion.”

Delino noted that speed humps also have disadvantages--such as noise when larger vehicles pass over them--and can cause damage to some street-sweeping and trash-collection vehicles. He added that the city’s police chief has said speed humps can be crossed at speeds of 35 to 40 m.p.h. without difficulty.

Plummer and other council members said they believe addressing the issue of speed humps in one alley may be an inadequate solution to the larger traffic problem near the city’s shores.

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‘Point of No Return’

“With 100,000 daily visits on the peninsula,” traffic “can really overload” the community of 15,000 there, Plummer said. “But I think the point of no return has arrived. . . . Alleys have become escape hatches” for visitors seeking parking--especially near the Wedge, the popular bodysurfing spot at the peninsula’s point.

City Traffic Coordinator Rich Edmonston said the city staff will be examining all areas of the city to determine whether they merit speed humps or other measures. However, he expected no decision from today’s committee meeting because “it is a very complex problem.”

Pettit was satisfied after the meeting that her group had obtained from each City Council member “some commitment for measures to address the situation.”

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