County to Study Safety in Industrial Neighborhood

By Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou, EGP Staff Writer

Los Angeles County traffic engineers will begin studying a Union Pacific neighborhood this fall in response to an appeal by a group of residents petitioning for more traffic signals and signs in their industrialized residential neighborhood.

Residents like Sonny Roque and Maria Lucy Trevino, who have lived 30 to 40 years in the unincorporated East Los Angeles neighborhood, last Wednesday informed the county’s Highway Safety Commission that previous studies by engineers didn’t accurately capture traffic safety issues where they live.

At the July 7 meeting, 20 residents submitted over 300 signatures on a petition asking for four-way stop signs, signals, and speed bumps, all traffic calming measures to prevent people from speeding along their residential streets.

The Union Pacific neighborhood residents were assisted in their campaign by East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, a community organization formed in 2001 by Commerce and East Los Angeles residents to address safety and health issues in communities located near railyards.

East Yard community organizer Debbie Vongviwat said the commission tabled the specific requests in favor of doing an analysis on a broader swathe of the community. “If the staff goes through with the comprehensive analysis, it would be more than what we asked for, in a good way,” she says. “But at the same time the commission didn’t exactly make a decision on the specific things [the residents] requested.”

The residents’ petitions focused on intersections along Sunol Drive, but the new study will take into account traffic within a wider area bounded by Marianna Avenue to the East, Olympic Boulevard to the North, Rowan Avenue to the West, and the Union Pacific tracks to the South. Vongviwat noted that the new area includes an elementary school, a church, and the new YWCA Union Pacific Empowerment Center.

Highway Safety Commission Executive Officer Irena Guilmette said one of the commissioners was familiar with the area and “gave more insight” into the issues faced by the neighborhood. He suggested that the proximity of the freeway off-ramps could be causing some of the traffic problems in the neighborhood, she said, and subsequently the commission decided to “stretch out the boundaries.”

According to Guilmette, the studies will start when school comes back in session, and a presentation of the study’s findings is “tentatively” set for November.

Vongviwat has hopes that the study will prove to be a “huge success for the Union Pacific neighborhood,” but criticized past studies that resulted in denials of the residents’ requests as too “narrow and rigid.”

“We hope… that they do a study that reflects what really happens in the neighborhood and hopefully incorporates what the community is saying, as well,” she says.

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July 15, 2010  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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