Main Beach crossing to get pilot program

Barbara Diamond

Clusters of pedestrians crossing the highway at Main Beach, rather

than straggling across in twos and threes, may be key to unblocking the

Broadway intersection and moving traffic more smoothly on the highway.

The City Council unanimously approved on Tuesday a pilot program that

will include testing a pedestrian-only signal phase and restoring the

crosswalk on the south side of the intersection.

Both measures will require the cooperation of Caltrans.

Traffic engineer Steve Sasaki made the recommendations after reviewing

data, traffic and the notion of using staff to control traffic downtown

during the summer.

"I am the one who asked police to direct traffic and I got into a lot

of trouble," said Councilwoman Toni Iseman. "So I support this."

At Iseman's request, the Police Department staffed the intersection in

the summer of 2000, using experienced supervisors.

"We made the problem worse," said Police Capt. Paul Workman, who has

been working on traffic control for the past two years. "Traffic was

backed up all the way to Bluebird Canyon."

Sasaki said phasing the signal for pedestrians only was a better

solution than using police staff. At least worth the try, he said.

He knows firsthand what it's like trying to drive through town on the

highway or to make the turn onto or off of Broadway. He lives here.

"I have reviewed his report, met with Steve May (city Public Works

director) and traffic experts and we all feel it was a thorough analysis

of the issues and had some good ideas," Workman said. "The problem is

worse in the summer."

No surprise there.

"There are only three ways in and out of town and they all converge at

Broadway and the highway," Workman said. "It's a bottleneck."

Summertime and weekend gridlock at the intersection is exacerbated by

the timing of the signals, which are geared for morning and afternoon

commute hours.

Sasaki also has suggested asking Caltrans to recalibrate the timing of

the signals at peak traffic times.

"We probably should look at timing plans for different scenarios,"

Workman said.

The council will consider budgeting funds for a study of the Broadway

intersection and as many as five intersections south to Legion Street.

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