The Burbank City Council took its first significant step into making it safer for students to walk or bike to local schools.
Council members unanimously voted during a meeting on Tuesday to approve a portion of the city’s Safe Routes to School project, which focuses on improving pedestrian safety at three schools — Washington and Jefferson elementaries and Muir Middle School — by way of new traffic policies.
The changes involve implementing 15-mph speed zones around campuses, additional all-way stop signs, high-visibility crosswalk striping at nearby intersections and construction of curb extensions and curb ramps, said Hannah Woo, an associate transportation planner for Burbank, and Jonathan Yee, the city’s assistant public works director of traffic.
The improvements around Washington, Jefferson and Muir are expected to cost the city $507,500, of which $487,500 will be paid for by Caltrans grant funds and the remaining $20,000 from development-impact fees, Woo said.
For Washington Elementary, speed limits will drop to 15 mph along Washington Circle, Winona Avenue and Lincoln and Myers streets. Curb ramps will also be installed at corners along Winona at Lincoln, Myers and Keystone Street.
Additionally, stop signs will be installed at Winona and Myers and high-visibility crosswalks will be put in place along Winona at Myers and Keystone.
The improvements at Jefferson Elementary include establishing a 15-mph speed limit along Eton, Cambridge and Jolley drives, Karen and Sixth streets and Dartmouth Road. High-visibility crosswalks will be installed along Eton at Sixth, Jolley and Kenneth Road, along Cambridge at Sixth, Karen and Kenneth and at Sixth and Dartmouth.
New stop signs and curb ramps will be installed at Sixth and Dartmouth and Cambridge and Karen. Additionally, curb ramps and a curb extension will be constructed at Cambridge and Sixth.
Muir will also have several improvements made around the campus, including 15-mph speed zones implemented along Bethany and Delaware roads, Cornell Drive and Kenneth.
Curb ramps and high-visibility crosswalks will be installed along Sixth at Bethany and Walnut and along Kenneth at Bethany and Walnut Avenue. Additional high-visibility crosswalks will be placed at Seventh Street and Walnut and along Kenneth at Cornell, Delaware and Uclan Drive. More curb ramps will be installed at Cornell and at Delaware.
The improvements are projected to be completed by fall 2019, Woo said.
The council also approved citywide policies that establish 15-mph speed zones on some streets and all-way stop signs at intersections meeting certain criteria.
Yee said in order for streets to qualify for the reduced speed limit, they must have two traffic lanes, an existing speed limit of 25 or 30 mph and be in a residential zone.
Additionally, there are three criteria that an intersection must meet to be eligible for new stop signs, Yee said.
The first involves stop signs next to schools, which need to be within 500 feet of a school, more than 300 feet from the nearest stop sign or traffic signal and consist of two travel lanes and a speed limit of either 25 or 30 mph.
The next qualification relates to the number of vehicles and students who cross through an intersection. Stop signs can be installed at intersections if at least 350 vehicles per hour and 40 students per day cross through.
Under those requirements, Yee said the city will collect data from 29 intersections around 11 schools that could possibly meet them. Additionally, crossing guards could be recommended for those sites.
The last requirement for stop signs involves the number of accidents that occur in a neighborhood. Signs can be installed at intersections where at least three crashes have been reported in a 12-month period and have 300 vehicles per hour driving through them. Yee said 11 streets in the city would qualify under those specifications.
The implementation of the speed-zone and stop-sign policies at the remaining 24 schools in Burbank Unified is estimated to cost the city an additional $720,000.
Of that total, the engineering design of the signs is estimated to cost about $150,000, funded through Los Angeles County’s Measure R — a half-cent sales tax that helps finance transportation projects.
The remaining $570,000 to pay for the construction and installation of the signs is proposed to be paid for through the city’s General Fund.
However, instead of waiting for the development-impact fees and Measure R funding to arrive, council members directed staff to fast-track the projects and allocate $740,000 from the General Fund now — $720,000 for the citywide policies and $20,000 to help pay for the improvements at the three schools — and reimburse the city when the funds are received.
The citywide policies were projected to be completed by winter 2019 but could be finished sooner, Woo said.
Speeding has been an issue around all schools in the city, according to a speed survey. Woo said motorists were driving up to 33 mph around Jefferson and Muir and up to 30 mph around Washington.
City Manager Ron Davis attested to the lack of regard some drivers have around school campuses. When he visited a school recently, he said he watched numerous drivers run through stop signs, even when there were police officers parked at the intersection.
Additionally, he visited Washington Elementary to talk with the principal about traffic safety and saw firsthand how dangerous crossing Winona can be.
“I went to cross, and I almost got run over,” Davis said. “I literally had to jump out of the way of a speeding SUV. I wouldn’t have believed it had I not witnessed it. That Winona [Avenue] is not safe for children. It’s just not.”
He added that what he witnessed was worse than what principals told him it would be like.
“Drivers do not behave well,” Davis said. “I’m not convinced even all of this will get cars to slow down. It’s a real problem. These are needed improvements to make kids feel safe when walking to school, and if it doesn’t work, I think we should come back with speed humps. I know residents don’t like them, but how else do you make it safe for children if the cars won’t slow down?”