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Separating the Walkers From the Bikers : Construction: Huntington Beach is splitting and widening its pathway to bolster safety and alleviate congestion.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When the asphalt pathway along the city beach was built 32 years ago, it was only supposed to be a service road for things such as trash and delivery trucks.

Officials could not have envisioned that it would be one of Orange County’s most popular spots for walking, cycling and skating.

But as such, the 20-foot-wide pathway has become increasingly congested, especially on weekends and during the summer, said Ron Hagan, director of community services. That has resulted in a growing number of collisions involving pedestrians, cyclists and skaters, and at least two lawsuits against the city.

To remedy the situation, work began this week on a new boardwalk that will separate pedestrians from wheeled traffic.

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Though the city does not have the money yet to remodel the entire three-mile stretch of road from Golden West Street to the shoreline, Hagan said, it is using a $250,000 federal grant to improve a 200-yard section near Pacific Coast Highway as a prototype.

“We’ve had a hard time convincing people of what it’s going to look like,” Hagan said. “So we’re fixing it up to show them.”

He hopes to win support from city leaders and residents to include the project in a proposed beach and park improvement district. The prototype might also help the city win grant money to extend the pathway, he said.

The work being done now will include two 12-foot-wide pathways, one for pedestrians and the other, with a smoother surface, for cyclists and skaters. A low wall will separate the two.

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The project, to be completed by spring, also will include a restroom building with outdoor showers and 12 rooms where beach-goers can change clothes.

The prototype, Hagan said, is the first phase of the $5-million South Beach improvement plan approved by the City Council in 1993.

As money becomes available, the city plans to replace all of the area’s public restrooms, which were built in 1963, install new lighting, resurface the parking lot, plant palms along Pacific Coast Highway and build a wall to keep sand off the pathways.


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