b y Alejandro Magallanes
Vision Zero to Raise Our Foothill Blvd. Speed Limit?
January brought with it changes of a new year, a new president and new changes to our own Foothill Boulevard. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s implementation of Vision Zero, a city-wide effort to reduce traffic collisions to zero by 2025, has been hard at work on the first 100-mile batch of roads on the High Injury Network. This month, work on the second batch begins. This batch includes our own Foothill Blvd. It is here. The traffic changes are finally here.
As a member of the Safe Streets Committee, I am excited. I’m not “jumping for joy” excited. It’s more of a “Whew!” excited. I’m excited because I know that, for the sake of all of the politicians’ egos involved with pulling off of this city-wide Vision Zero endeavor, our town stands to win big! Our mayor and his team will not let this project fall flat on its face, and for their efforts, we will see definite traffic changes in Sunland-Tujunga.
The fight for traffic changes isn’t something new in our community. The Safe Streets Committee didn’t create the desire for traffic changes. Neither did Vision Zero. Our Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council (STNC) sent in requests for traffic changes years ago. One of the NC’s letters to the Department of Transportation (LADOT), dating back to 2014, clearly asks for an “engineering assessment” on two of our dangerous local intersections. That letter refers to past requests dating back to 2012. It also includes a petition, signed by more than 100 resident stakeholders, in an effort to support the traffic changes. Our community wants change.
Furthermore, when I look to people who are fed up with traffic problems in our town, I need look no further than to our own editor-in-chief of The Foothills Paper, David DeMullé. This past December marked the 10-year-anniversary of a traffic accident that began his crusade against ignorant drivers.
On December 12, 2006, Michelle Wincentsen was killed in a traffic accident on La Tuna Canyon Road when a 17-year-old dropped his cell phone while driving his Jeep. It has been his fight for 10 years to make drivers aware that their actions not only hurt the victim(s) but the victims’ families and extended families as well.
Our community wants change. And now, with S-T becoming “the last frontier” for Los Angeles life, more traffic is coming. People in our community are worried. On behalf of the Safe Streets Committee, I would like you to know that we hear you, loud and clear. We know about the efforts the STNC made in the past that were never met. We know about the 50,000-plus traffic accident photos DeMullé has taken during the last 10 years. I can only hope that the Safe Streets Committee, in conjunction with Vision Zero, will bring about change that eases the frustrations of our community — if even just a little bit.
So, now to the frustrations; work is underway and we have updates! LADOT Principal Transportation Engineer Nader Asmar informed our committee that they have finished street surveys for our Foothill Blvd. This means that LADOT spent hours shooting radar on Foothill to get an idea of what the median speed on should be based on the daily vehicular travel. Too high of a speed limit is dangerous; too slow of a speed limit, however, is equally troublesome. Based on the radar data they shot, the speed limit on Foothill starting from Lowell at La Crescenta and ending at Wheatland in Lake View Terrace should be raised by 5 mph. That means 35 to 40 mph from Lowell to Sunland Blvd, 40 to 45 mph from Sunland to Wentworth, and 50 to 55 mph from Wentworth to Wheatland. On top of that, Asmar explained that changing the speed limit will have to go through an L.A. City Council process which will take more time. It is likely we won’t see physical changes to our streets for more than a year.
A date is set for a town hall meeting on our traffic situation and Vision Zero in March. I will update you in the upcoming weeks. Fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen. This ride might get a little bumpy.