Traffic Safety Focus of Union Pacific Neighborhood Study
Residents are closer to getting speed bumps, medians and other improvements to slow speeding drivers and keep large trucks out of residential neighborhoods.
By Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou, EGP Staff Writer
In the Union Pacific neighborhood of unincorporated East Los Angeles residents are relieved to finally have a blueprint for reducing some the traffic hazards that surround them.
Named for the nearby railroad, the Union Pacific neighborhood is home to numerous warehousing and light manufacturing businesses, a major truck traffic artery, and two freeways. It also has residential homes, an elementary school, a church, a YWCA community recreation center and a park.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Estudio Investiga la Seguridad de Tráfico en la Vecindad Union Pacific
In January, the community got to see a map marked with various traffic safety measure recommendations for their neighborhood during a meeting with private consultants hired by the L.A. County Department of Public Works.
A final report on the study and set of recommendations is due out in April.
Next up for the project is the design and engineering phase, which will not only determine costs, but also look at how the recommendations will actually be translated into reality.
Funding is still being worked out, but officials estimate the first planned phase of the construction could start by 2013, with traffic calming measures in place by May 2013. Additional traffic calming measures are included in a second phase, but would only be considered if measures from the first phase prove inadequate.
The plan, which will be released as part of the Union Pacific Neighborhood Wide Traffic Calming Study, resulted from feedback received during three community meetings at the end of 2011.
The recommendations include speed bumps; spacious, bulb-shaped curbs to narrow the width of the streets; solar-powered speed signs to warn drivers when they are driving too fast; street medians; as well as other measures to calm traffic in the neighborhood’s residential streets.
The study applies to an area bounded by Olympic Blvd in the north, Mariana Ave on the east, Indiana Street on west, and the railyards on the south end. To the north is the I-5 Freeway and unincorporated Los Angeles County, and to the south is the City of Commerce.
The study, which came out of a 2010 resolution introduced by County Supervisor Gloria Molina, looked at “non-traditional” ways to improve traffic safety in the neighborhood.
During the community meetings, residents pointed out areas in the neighborhood where cars do not respect crossing guards guiding children across the street, trucks frequently speed or congregate, and where crosswalks are needed. They also noted places with graffiti, illegal street vending, double parking, and a lack of parking.
The road to get to the proposed traffic calming measures began two years ago with a group of residents meeting in a local living room They were fed up with the frequency of traffic accidents in their neighborhood, including one in which a beloved community matriarch was struck and killed by a car while she walked to church. Another traffic accident that occurred while people were out celebrating the July 4th holiday also left an impression.
Residents faced roadblocks early on, with the county’s highway safety commission denying their applications and requests to put in more stop signs and speed bumps, saying their studies did not show a need for them.
Undeterred, residents walked their neighborhood, got petitions signed, and passed out yellow homemade signs that directed drivers to “please slow down.”
Then the Commerce-based advocacy group East Yard Communities for Environmental Group, EYCEJ, got involved, and found a grant to help fund the residents’ campaign.
The YWCA Union Pacific Empowerment Center, along with the nearby Eastman Elementary School also joined the residents to attract more attention to their neighborhood’s safety issues.
The residents also appealed to County Supervisor Gloria Molina, who at the time seemed to be trying to increase the livability of the neighborhood with a newly opened YWCA community center and a public park.
Most studies to slow down traffic in residential neighborhoods have looked at smaller areas. “This was a larger study area than one normally does in traffic calming… we looked at the entire community at once,” said Joel Falter, private consultant and the Chief Operating Officer of the Monterey Park-based KOA Corporation.
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice community organizer Debbie Vongviwat said some of the community’s issued were not adequately addressed in the study. Some residents are dissatisfied with the traffic calming measures near the elementary school, while others said the traffic study area was too limited because it cuts off at Olympic Blvd.
Vongviwat said they will continue to monitor the project. “In general, we are continuing to have the community working to ensure these plans are implemented, and that funding is available to make this plan really happen,” she said.
According to Molina’s field deputy David Vela, there is still time for Union Pacific neighborhood residents to give input before the final report comes out by calling the county at (626) 300-4709.
“We are very invested as a county in traffic safety in our unincorporated communities, and we are working closely with the community, including East Yard Community for Environmental Justice to implement these upgrades to these streets,” said Kerjon Lee, spokesperson for the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works.
Maps showing planned improvements will be on display starting April 21 at the YWCA located at 4315 Union Pacific Ave Los Angeles CA.Print This Post
March 8, 2012 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.