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November 20th, 2009 by Sameea Kamal
After seeing positive results from a similar initiative in San Fernando, new city manager Jose Pulido has proposed a citywide traffic study and master plan that would give the city the power to resolve problems that state and federal guidelines fail to address.
Pulido said the driving force for the study was an accident that occurred on El Monte Avenue and Daines Drive– which he learnt about through watching city council meetings before he was appointed.
“I could see the council was getting frustrated because they wanted to take control of traffic issues and they couldn’t,” he said.
According to the city manager, the state and federal guidelines have standards that are better suited to large cities, such as a stop sign only being implemented if there are enough collisions to warrant it.
“It’s kind of a one size fits all, and smaller communities have a hard time adjusting to that – it encourages you to have more collisions,” he said. “Obviously we don’t want to have any. If you want to have a proactive department, you have to be ahead of the curve.”
Pulido initiated a similar study for the city of San Fernando in 2004, where he served as the city administrator.
“Unfortunately it took a (traffic-related) death to get the council back there to change,” he said. “CalTrans guidelines are difficult to meet for small cities and Temple City is a small city.”
According to Temple City Public Safety Officer Brian Ariizumi, the intersection of El Monte Avenue and Daines Drive where the accident occurred has been a concern for many residents due to the high number of traffic collisions.
The collision involved a teenage driver with three other occupants who was speeding down El Monte Avenue, Ariizumi said. The vehicle crashed and injured all occupants, with one near fatality.
Following the accident, the city council directed staff to look into ways to better control traffic under the state and federal guidelines.
Ariizumi said that the state has certain warrants, or requirements, in addition to federal requirements for dealing with traffic problems.
“One of the things we wanted was to look at the installation of traffic control,” Ariizumi said. “Unfortunately this intersection did not meet the warrant. For more traffic control, they require us to have more crashes, but we’re trying to get away from that.”
One of the criteria is that before a stop sign can be installed, five or more traffic collisions must occur in a 12-month period, in addition to a certain number of vehicles that drive on the street daily, Ariizumi gave as an example.
The city must also go through CalTrans for speed humps and four-way stop signs, and only after a fatality occurs, Pulido said.
Pulido said he would like to council to consider a shift from the reactive to a proactive approach to traffic calming, and take advantage of the opportunity to gather data.
The item will be presented to the City Council at the December 1 meeting for the councilmembers to discuss.
The study would take about two years, after which an engineer would be brought in to give a recommendation, Pulido said.
“Not too many cities do this because it takes a long time and it’s a lot of work,” he said. “But it lets the whole community take over through the traffic and safety commission and allows citizens to be more involved with street closures and other things that we just can’t do right now.”
According to the city manager, it is too soon to determine the cost, but no appropriation of funds being requested right now.
“We’re still in the exploratory phase – if it’s not feasible to do this, we don’t do the traffic calming,” he said. “The major expense is going to be to hire a traffic engineering consultant to do data collection, but we do that every couple of years already,” he said.
Though costs were outlined in a staff report for the city of San Fernando, the city manager said those numbers cannot be applied due to changes in the economy.
Pulido also said that after the study was done in San Fernando, formerly dangerous intersections no longer had fatalities.
Rethinking the way traffic is conducted would also serve to divert crime by preventing easy access to escape routes that go from one city to another, he said.
“It is something that really works,” he said. “In conjunction with traffic calming, it really made the community safer.”