Traffic-Relief Ideas Range From ‘Fix It’ to ‘Forget It’

Michael Throne
Photo by Zane Hill / OUTLOOK
Parks and Public Works Director Michael Throne speaks with a local couple, Kim and Kien Chua, about a traffic-related concern in San Marino. Throne and other city officials have been soliciting ideas to improve traffic flow in town, though many residents say the answer is simply to do nothing.

The City Council plans to take a first look at specific proposals to alleviate traffic congestion on portions of San Marino roadways sometime in June, finally starting a council-level discussion on whether the city should even move forward with the projects that would be funded by Metro.
With the city having hosted its last planned public meeting to solicit ideas to help fuel the projects, Parks and Public Works Director Michael Throne, who also is the city engineer, will start incorporating what residents have asked for, if they’ve asked for anything at all. Although several ideas have been advanced by residents throughout the year, many have simply asked to return the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s $32 million.
“Our goal tonight is to get input from you,” Al Boegh, chair of the city’s Public Safety Commission, told attendees at the meeting last week. “Hopefully, that input will be in the form of suggestions as to how we can address a problem that does exist in our community. If you’ve driven on Huntington [Drive], you know that at least twice every day there are major points of congestion. The question we have to ask ourselves is, ‘Can we find a way, with the money Metro has offered us, to address these issues?’”
Metro plans to dole out tax-generated money that had been collected for the now-dead project for a 710 Freeway tunnel under South Pasadena to the cities that would have been most affected by the tunnel’s construction. The only catch is that those projects must meet Metro’s goals of improving traffic flow, whether through capacity enhancement or infrastructural improvement such as synchronized traffic signals.
Although the city began initially asking the public about five target areas and Throne had advanced some general ideas for them, more recent correspondence between Metro and City Councilman Steve Talt has revealed that the transportation authority would consider projects anywhere in the city as long as it’s determined they would alleviate congestion.
“This is an opportunity for if you have ideas for your neighborhood,” Throne said. “That’s the kind of things we can bring into these kinds of projects and get Metro to pay for them in one way or another.”
Frustration was high, particularly near the beginning of the meeting, largely arising from confusion regarding the city’s timeline for the projects and from residents being asked to try to pitch new ideas rather than continue to condemn the projects altogether.
Ideas did emerge. There were suggestions of restricting turns onto side residential streets from Huntington during certain hours. Many suggested bolstering the police department and directing it to more strictly enforce speed limits. To address congestion on Huntington related to school drop-off and pickup times, someone proposed carving out diverted lanes to keep those cars off Huntington. Residents on Los Robles Avenue were united in not wanting anything to invite more traffic to their road.
One sentiment that became popular was working out some sort of quid pro quo with Metro, given the institution’s historically onerous attitude toward the county’s smaller communities.
“If we decide to do something, we should ask for something in return,” Andrew Ko said. “We should ask Metro that, if we do this, they should repave some of our streets. Let’s get something in return. If they synchronize lights, maybe only synchronize them during the morning rush hour and evening rush hour.”
Eileen Hale, a former member of the city’s Traffic Advisory Commission (which was merged with the Public Safety Commission last year), said one of her main takeaways from that service was that traffic, like water, follows the path of least resistance, and urged caution in making it easier to travel through town.
“San Marino doesn’t have a traffic problem, it has a commuter problem,” she said. “San Marino doesn’t have more people, everywhere else has more people.”
Others were more inclined to explore projects. Eugene Sun, a former city councilman, said the city should focus on improving traffic safety at school zones and added that signal synchronization could help keep motorists on Huntington.
“I think it will accomplish two things,” Sun said. “Synchronization will control the speed along Huntington Drive. With synchronization, we are going to avoid the traffic backup. With a standstill, the traffic backup will go to the side street areas.”
Signal synchronization is designed to time a series of light changes from one point to another based on how many vehicles go through the initial intersection. Light changes are staggered in a pattern that should allow a group of vehicles to pass through unimpeded provided they stick to the speed limit.
Joe Petrillo said corridor improvements could help the city manage what is inevitable: more motorists on the road from neighboring communities experiencing growth.
“The traffic is coming,” he said. “Understand that. You don’t have the power to stop that. What we do have the power to do is move the traffic efficiently and safely through the city. What our goals are might not be what [Metro’s] are, but we have to identify ours first.”
There is at least one petition started by residents advocating against the projects altogether, and it can be found at chng.it/MsBPcxQpkK.

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