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City Council meeting focuses on improving street safety in La Cañada

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Easing congestion and making La Cañada streets safer took center stage Tuesday, as City Council members considered making concrete some temporary street improvements near Palm Crest Elementary School and reducing speed limits on Angeles Crest Highway near Foothill Boulevard to 30 mph.

The council reviewed traffic calming measures installed last year along Fairmount Avenue, between Earlmont and Hillard avenues, including creation of a perpendicular juncture at Fairmount and Earlmont and striping of an adjacent wide shoulder to prevent parked cars from obstructing pedestrian views.

The matter was brought to the city’s attention last April by a local Brownie troop whose members claimed parked cars and no sidewalks made walking to and from Palm Crest Elementary School a dangerous prospect.

Additional parking restrictions and signs were put in place to minimize risk, and the city’s Public Works and Traffic Commission agreed to review the situation after several months had passed. In a May 18 meeting, commissioners deemed the changes effective and recommended the city consider installing curbs, gutters and sidewalks with landscaping to provide permanent pathways for walkers.

“We believe it’s fully beneficial to the students and walkers in that area to have the benefit of a sidewalk to walk on instead of the street,” traffic engineer Steve Libring told the council Tuesday.

The four council members present (Councilwoman Terry Walker was absent) concurred, agreeing to consider spending the $70,000 necessary to complete the work during their budget process for Fiscal Year 2016-17, currently in progress.

“This all started from a local Brownie troop focusing on a traffic improvement, and (now) it’s starting to come to fruition,” said Mayor Jon Curtis.

Council members also looked Tuesday at speed limits along the .2-mile stretch of Angeles Crest Highway between Foothill Boulevard and the Foothill (210) Freeway eastbound onramp. In January 2015, a 40-mph speed limit was imposed by the council when it was learned no previous limitation existed.

That speed was as low as lawmakers could legislate at the time, as it was based on a prevailing speed (defined as the 85th percentile of actual speeds clocked) of 45 mph, which could only be reduced by lawmakers as much as 5 miles per hour.

But on Tuesday council members learned a new traffic study — conducted after signal timing changes had been made allowing cars to more easily clear traffic lights — found the prevailing speed had slowed to 28 mph.

“Under the reassessment the speeds came in much lower, so we now can lawfully lower the speed limit,” Libring said.

The traffic engineer explained the reduction will allow the city to qualify for assistance from Caltrans in creating a new, right-turn-only lane for northbound Angeles Crest vehicles accessing the 210 Freeway eastbound onramp.

“As soon as the speed limit drops below 35, we can meet the design criteria without having to do an expensive widening, so this is a win-win for us in that respect,” Libring added.

Ultimately, council members approved 4-0 an ordinance reducing the speed limit to 30 mph, to take effect 30 days after adoption.

Update on regional projects

Also Tuesday, the City Council heard progress reports on two large-scale regional projects that could have serious impacts on the community, and what’s being done locally to reduce those impacts.

Chris Stone, assistant deputy director of Los Angeles County Public Works’ Water Resources Division, and civil engineer Keith Lilley shared news of upcoming work on the Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project, a multiyear effort to remove 2.4 million cubic yards of debris from the over-filled reservoir.

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They said contractors will begin clearing brush and building temporary access routes sometime in January. All previously agreed-upon mitigation efforts — insisted upon by local environmentalists and La Cañada city and school officials — will be honored, Lilley said.

The agency plans to hold a series of community workshops in mid-July to inform residents of the project’s parameters and the work that will take place. One of those meetings will take place in La Cañada, however the date has not yet been finalized.

La Cañada resident and 710 Freeway activist Jan SooHoo updated the public on the efforts of the “No 710 Action Committee,” a grassroots organization of residents and agencies actively advocating against construction of a 4.5-mile underground tunnel to connect the freeway’s endpoint in Alhambra with the 210 Freeway terminus in Pasadena.

SooHoo said tunnel opponents are strengthening their defenses while the Metropolitan Transportation Authority prepares its final environmental review on possible solutions, including a tunnel. She shared recent attempts by Pasadena officials, who largely oppose a tunnel but have been hamstrung by a 2001 ballot measure vowing to close the freeway gap, to consider repealing their city’s Measure A.

“The tunnel is fiscally and environmentally unacceptable and, frankly, will be an ineffective solution for easing congestion,” she said. “Our mission includes promoting solutions that are fiscally and environmentally sound, reduce pollution, lower health risks…ease congestion and eliminate public dependence on fossil fuels.”

More information can be found on no710.com. Alternatively, arguments in favor of a tunnel can be found on 710coalition.com.

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Sara Cardine, sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine


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