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City Reviews Safety Upgrades at Intersection

First published in the Jan. 27 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

In response to two traffic collisions that occurred at the corner of Angeles Crest Highway and Foothill Boulevard on Nov. 6, the city of La Cañada Flintridge may soon change the signage in the area to better inform drivers approaching the intersection and is exploring suggestions made by the Public Works and Traffic Commission.
The panel held a meeting Jan. 19 during which Farhad Iranitalab, the city’s traffic engineer, said he reviewed the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station reports of the accidents and proposed that the sign next to the traffic light located directly in front of Hill Street Cafe be replaced with a larger one and that bollards with arrow signs be installed indicating a left turn that are reflectorized and visible at night.
Iranitalab also suggested that the pavement markings on the second lane of Angeles Crest Highway from a shared through-left arrow to left arrow to better inform drivers unfamiliar with the intersection that there is no additional street ahead. Though the repainting of the pavement marking of ACH’s second lane would indicate a left turn, drivers will still be allowed to go straight to enter Hill Street Cafe.
“The whole issue for those people who aren’t familiar with the area that are [driving Angeles Crest Highway approaching Foothill Boulevard] is that they may not realize that it’s a T-intersection, so the pavement marking with the straight arrow and curve may mislead them that it’s a free street,” Pat DeChellis, LCF’s director of public works, told the Outlook Valley Sun on Wednesday.
At the suggestion of the commission, city staff will add another bollard with an arrow indicating that a right turn is also allowed and adding backplates to the traffic signals to make them more visible.
DeChellis said a service request has been sent to Los Angeles County and he hopes the additions and alterations will be made by late February. However, DeChellis acknowledges that the changes are short-term and added that city staff will explore long-term solutions and present them to the commission possibly in April, at the earliest.
The changes come after two accidents occurred on the morning of Nov. 6 at the intersection that has long been plagued by traffic collisions, the biggest occurring in 2009 when a large truck smashed into a vehicle, killing a 12-year-old girl and her father.
The first of the two occurred at approximately 2:15 a.m. and involved a 19-year-old woman driving without a license who pressed on the gas rather than the brake pedal, lost control and collided into Hill Street Cafe. A second collision happened at 8:05 a.m. with a driver speeding down ACH and losing control when turning left onto Foothill Boulevard, crashing into Veruca Salt and Compass Real Estate. The driver fled the scene, but the passenger told CV Sheriff’s deputies that they had been drinking on the mountain prior to driving down ACH.
Speeding has been a problem on the highway, especially on the weekends, and one resident suggested that a radar speed sign be placed on Angeles Crest near the freeway exit that would remind drivers to slow down.
Iranitalab shot down the idea of a speed-measuring device, saying that he doesn’t “believe it will stop anything” because there is only 180 feet between the 210 freeway ramps at Angeles Crest and the Town Center intersection and additional 140 feet to get to Foothill Boulevard. Also, any changes on Angeles Crest Highway north of the 210 must be made by Caltrans.
Commissioner Kati Rubinyi recommended that LCF staff investigate widening the medians to make the lanes slightly narrower, giving it an aesthetic closer to the city’s main street.
“There’s no accounting or way of controlling the behaviors of these drivers, but there are things you can do,” she said. “And it’s very difficult to know exactly which of the things is going to prevent a collision in the future, but I really believe that if you entirely change the character of that stretch of ACH and make it more like a street in a community rather than a freeway, people will be restricted at driving a higher rate of speed.”
Commissioner Edward Yu suggested that one of the traffic signals prior to arriving at ACH and Foothill Boulevard be programmed to indicate a red light so that a driver slows down before entering the T-intersection.
Another idea — from Chair Eldon Horst — was to no longer allow vehicles to enter the Hill Street Cafe parking lot through Foothill Boulevard.
DeChellis said all recommendations will be reviewed and presented to the panel as an agenda item, possibly in April or May.

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