PCH Task Force Meeting: Caltrans Official Addresses Four Projects Affecting Pacific Palisades

Caltrans is widening the shoulder and putting in guard rails between the Bel Air Bay Club and the Will Rogers Beach parking lot. Bikers on the shoulder will more easily access the bike path.

What’s the most dangerous move a driver can make on Pacific Coast Highway?

At the Wednesday quarterly PCH Task Force meeting in Malibu, an L.A. County Sheriff and a California Highway Patrol representative agreed that it’s “a U-turn on Pacific Coast Highway.”

Three other mistakes drivers make that cause collisions on PCH: running a red light, unsafe speed and DIU (unfortunately, DUI’s were up for the last quarter of 2019).

Representatives from the Los Angeles and Santa Monica police departments were not in attendance to report on PCH from McClure Tunnel to Coastline (Sunset Mesa).

PCH crosses four different law enforcement jurisdictions as it makes its way from Santa Monica to the Ventura County line: CHP, L.A. County Sheriffs, LAPD and SMPD.

The PCH Task Force was started so that the three cities involved (Santa Monica, Los Angeles and Malibu), the different law enforcement jurisdictions, and State and County officials could all focus on the various challenges along PCH and be aware of projects and plans along the roadway.

Abdi Sagahafi, the Caltrans Supervising Transportation Engineer for District 7, spoke first and addressed four areas of interest for Palisades residents: McClure Tunnel lane closures, shoulder lane improvements by the Bel-Air Bay Club, Chautauqua intersection improvements and a proposed pedestrian bridge at Potrero Canyon.

Sagahafi explained that the $8 million McClure Tunnel project would begin in May. Work will include the roadway going down to one-lane each direction, most likely from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Currently, lights in the tunnel are sodium vapor. During daytime, a high contrast is created between outside daylight and the inside light, which causes some drivers to abruptly slow down when they enter the tunnel.

The Caltrans fact sheet provided by Sagahafi noted that “The maintenance of the lights requires lane closures, resulting in additional traffic delays and exposure of maintenance personnel to traffic.”

The project will involve replacing the vapor lights with LED lights, painting the interior of the tunnel and installing a Queue Warning System on westbound traffic.

The system will provide real-time alerts to when queues are building, so drivers know to slow down. A feedback speed sign, a high friction surface and an upgrade to the metal beam guardrail are also planned.

It will take about a year to complete everything, but Caltrans feels the improved visibility and the warning system will reduce the number of collisions at the tunnel.

Motorists have noticed the construction project currently underway by the lower Bel-Air Bay Club. This is part of a larger $14.25 million project.

“The money is not just for the project in Pacific Palisades,” Saghafi told Circling the News in a March 12 email. “It includes improvements all along PCH.”

The project involves moving and upgrading existing metal beam guardrails and widening shoulders and lanes along PCH between the Bel-Air Bay Club and Temescal Canyon Road.

According to a Caltrans fact sheet, the project will allow bikers to more safely access the beach bike path from PCH. This project does NOT extend the bike path or the pedestrian walkway from Will Rogers State Beach to Sunset Boulevard.

“This project will restore the integrity of the MBGR (metal beam guardrail), enhance safety for the motorists, and provide bicyclists access to the South Bay Trail and continuity along the Pacific Coast Bike Route,” Saghafi said.

(Editor’s note: The Marvin Braude bike path travels 22 miles from the western end of Will Rogers State Beach to Torrance Beach. Visit: https://www.discoverlosangeles.com/things-to-do/los-angeles-beaches-by-bike-part-one-will-rogers-beach-to-marina-del-rey).

About the notorious PCH/Chautauqua intersection, Saghafi told the Task Force that “several improvements have been suggested.”

After the October task force meeting, CTN reported that Saghafi and Corridor Manager Osama Assaad had been working with the City (Councilman Bonin’s representative, Eric Bruins) about striping and signage, but traffic modeling needed to be done before operations can be improved at that intersection.

Ways to improve the PCH/Chautauqua intersection are being discussed by Caltrans and Los Angeles City.

At that time, Caltrans said it did not have the money to fund a modeling, and it was told that Council District 11 did not have the money either. Caltrans suggested perhaps the City could go to Metro and ask for a modeling.

CTN reminded Saghafi of that reporting and he replied by email, “What you had in your last story is still correct. However, while we are seeking funding for the Traffic Modeling, both Caltrans and LADOT are making interim improvements. I will provide you with a list of interim improvements shortly.”

Finally, regarding the pedestrian bridge overcrossing at PCH and the eventual Potrero Canyon Park, Saghahi has been told that the cost for a bridge would be $11 million.

Pacific Palisades Community Council President David Card, who attended Wednesday’ task force meeting, said that after landscaping, and barring any future change of order plans, there would be about $2 million left in the Potrero Fund.

“If funding doesn’t materialize, it could trigger a surface crossing,” Saghafi said. A crosswalk, much like the one at the Palisades Bowl Mobile Homes (west of Temescal), might be installed. Anytime the cross button is pushed, it results in a red light for cars traveling on PCH, in both directions.

People unwisely attempt to cross the six-lane Pacific Coast Highway at Potrero, where the new park will be unveiled. A pedestrian bridge or crosswalk are needed.

However, in the past, Caltrans has been reluctant to install any additional signals or crosswalks that slow traffic on PCH.


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