Without question, the PCH is the bane of Malibu, given the highway’s daily accidents, capricious gridlock and conspicuous distracted drivers.
It is the price the city’s 13,000 residents must pay living in a self-anointed coastal paradise, through which 80,000 commuters pass every day, and up to an estimated 400,00 beach-bound visitors descend on sunny days.
After years of endless complaints, and years of studies, the city gave its blessing last week to an exacting 900 page report, recommending some 150 improvements with a price tag totaling 20 million dollars plus, presumably to make the roadway safer.
As detailed by consultants, the improvements include synchronized traffic signals, realigning several intersections, straightening sections of the road, an underpass, and bolder stripping and signage.
The improvements will fine-tune the highway, and no doubt make the intersections less prone to rear end collisions. .
But not solved is the conflict trying to accommodate bike lanes and on street parking in the eastern stretch of PCH, or more critically slowing traffic. Despite the praises of the City Council and others, there is no silver bullet to solve the harsh realities of the PCH.
Indeed, many of the recommendations might be counter intuitive. Traffic will probably increase.
Improving roadways almost always generates more traffic; traffic being like water, flowing downhill, to find its way into the most conducive channel.
And in Malibu, the PCH is the one and only channel, a lone connect linking the 21-mile long sausage-like city squeezed between an ocean and a mountain range.
Putting on my planner’s hat, as I have in past commentaries, and in remarks before the City Council, I feel the PCH should no longer be considered a highway, with speed limits of 45 and 55, in particular through the civic center.
Reevaluating the speed limit for the 4-mile stretch between Webb Way and Las Flores Canyon Road is way down the consultant’s priority list.
I suggest a high priority, and lowering the speed limits there to 35, and further down to 25 edging the Civic Center Way. That are the limits for the PCH where it passes through downtown Laguna Beach, Corona Del Mar and other coastal towns.
In effect, this section of the PCH would become Malibu’s main street, and as such, Caltrans urban standards would apply, not incidentally protecting the hallowed trees. Also encouraged would be cross walks, and other amenities, lending the commercial clutter and park there a more welcoming identity.
In tweaking the PCH, the traffic study also needs some tweaking.
I’m Sam Hall Kaplan, and this is the City Observed, on 97.5 KBU FM, radio Malibu. Dot COM.
To be aired 6.27.2015