City Provides Response to Traffic Plan Queries

The Public Safety Commission plans to preview updated traffic plans to the public at its next meeting, rescheduled to Monday, July 22, ahead of the date when the City Council plans to finally take a formal look at the proposals.
The meeting’s location was not immediately set, but it’s unlikely to be in the City Council chambers, as customary. Commissioner Jeff Boozell observed that, as with this week’s meeting attended by about 100 people, public interest will necessitate a larger location to accommodate the audience. Boozell also put forward a motion to task the council with evaluating the updated plans, which have been sharply rebuked by a contingent of residents throughout the year.
“I believe the council should have that option [to accept or reject the proposals], plus any options that take community input into account,” he said.
The commission’s meeting on Monday at San Marino Community Church was held both to present responses to questions posed at a prior town-hall meeting regarding a series of proposed projects to alleviate traffic congestion — with funding from L.A. Metro — and also to open the floor to suggestions for traffic improvement in general, regardless of
Metro’s involvement.
Parks and Public Works Director Michael Throne, going through the round of responses, said that although the primary goal of the projects is meant to ease traffic flow through certain chokepoints on main roads, “of course, the work in front of the schools is safety focused.” Along Huntington Drive, one of the current ideas is to more distinctly separate travel lanes from the places where parents park before or after school.
Throne is proposing to achieve this by shaving off a parkway area along the berm near Huntington Middle School and Valentine Elementary School to create proper parking without altering eastbound Huntington Drive’s travel lanes. He also has proposed modifying westbound Huntington at San Gabriel Boulevard so that through traffic is less likely to be impeded by vehicles parking in front of San Marino High School.
“We fully expect to be able to incorporate those safety components that will at the end of the day be acceptable by Metro,” Throne said.
After shuttering the controversial 710 Freeway tunnel project last year, Metro — the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority — elected to kick the $780 million generated by the Measure R sales tax for the project to the cities near the freeway to fund their own projects to alleviate congestion and more efficiently move traffic. Metro has set aside all of that money as placeholders for the cities, with San Marino having $32 million earmarked for five proposals.
Throne hopes to modify several projects designed by Metro as alternatives to the tunnel to be more amenable to San Marino’s relatively quiet quality of life. Those projects, which include traffic signal synchronization and extensions to some left-turn pockets, are designed to shepherd traffic through the main roadways in town without putting them on side streets, to control excessive speeding on those roadways and to reduce the stacking of vehicles out of turn pockets into lanes.
Another frequent question has been whether the city can extract some sort of concession from Metro for doing some or all of these projects, which are perceived by some as an imposition by the agency, even though the city took the initiative in considering them.
“Metro is not really interested in whether or not we do these projects, so it is unlikely they would be willing to ‘give us something in return,’” Throne said.
Some residents remained skeptical at best Monday, observing the peculiar nature of the process that made funding available before the city has committed to anything. It was also pointed out that the city has not yet even started long-needed updates to its traffic circulation data.
“I know traffic is a very complicated issue and the city is trying to do what they can to address those issues, but I think this process was taken backwards,” said Richard Patlan. “Their primary focus is to increase traffic flow and not to reduce traffic flow. I think the priority should be to reduce traffic and not increase it. The priority should be the safety of the community. I think Metro put this strategy and approach upon the city and we’re taking it and running with it. I think the traffic study that is being proposed [in a separate item] should have been done before.”
Commission chair Al Boegh said the City Council should have a chance to consider modified projects even amid some protesting, if only for the sake of due diligence.
“That quite frankly doesn’t mean anyone is going to approve it,” he said. “Not everyone has said no. Some people have had positive suggestions, so let’s look at the suggestions.” The council will discuss proposals on Friday, July 26.
The city’s full responses to recent queries on the proposals, along with details of the proposals themselves, can be found on its website at cityofsanmarino.org.

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