After four traffic fatalities in five months, and more than a dozen crashes serious enough to close Malibu’s only main road, the Malibu city council tonight will consider a $20 million package of proposed road improvements.
Three years in the making, the study proposes more than 150 small or large projects, from one end of the 22 mile-long, mountainous beachfront city to the other. It recommends that the improvements be funded by the countywide Measure R sales tax, or federal or state grants.
The study follows three PCH fatalities in June, and the publicized February death of a woman whose car was rear-ended by a driver then known as Bruce Jenner. Dozens of smaller crashes close PCH every month, and this month two fire trucks and a sheriff’s squad cars were in simultaneous, unrelated crashes on a busy Saturday afternoon.
The study pinpointed as a problem the “first come, first served” policy for the busy road’s shoulders, where bicyclists, pedestrians, parked cars and MTA buses all compete for the same space. Inconsistent “no parking” signs and red curbs, some installed by beachfront residents, add to chaos on the roadside, the study said.
The study criticized the use of pay parking at beaches and valet parking at businesses, with free parking on the street, which leads to an unusual amount of on-street parallel parking maneuvering in 45, 50 or 55-mile-per-hour sections of PCH.
The current configuration of the highway dates from 1947, and historic records indicate PCH was laid out as a rural intercity highway with a design speed of up to 65 miles per hour in western Malibu, and 55 mph in eastern Malibu. The study noted that excessive speed is a major factor in crashes, and that speeding may be exacerbated by the current road design.
Among cures proposed by the study is extension of a striped bike lane from its current end, at Zuma Beach, all the way across the city. It also says that cracked roadside caused a woman to lose control of her bike and fall in front of a bus in 2012, and recommends that the roadsides be repaired.
But the study stops short of calling for reduction of on-street parking to make way for bike lanes. It says the lanes should be installed only where it is safe to reduce lane width and accommodate both the bike lanes and legal on- street parking.
Many residents in eastern Malibu have opposed bike lanes, and have campaigned against them as a threat to on-street parking. In many cases, there is no alternative parking place within miles of their houses, which were built in the 1940s before PCH was last widened.
The city has just built a $1.1 million bike lane in western Malibu, and thousands of bike riders brave speeding vehicles on weekends between the Civic Center and Pacific Palisades.
The study also calls for widening and realigning PCH at the city’s most- hazardous area: PCH at Las Flores Canyon Road. There, narrow lanes, a sharp curve, dozens of restaurant patrons parking on the road and two signals within 150 feet of each other help cause more crashes than anywhere else in Malibu, the report said.
The consultants also propose removing the signal at Rambla Pacifico, and connecting that street to Las Flores Canyon Road north of PCH, thus removing one of the two intersections at the curve.
It also calls for building a new bridge over Zuma Creek to connect Westward Beach Road to PCH at the Busch Drive intersection, which would remove a hazardous offset intersection at Bonsall Drive at PCH.
The study also recommends traffic circles on PCH west of Trancas and at Webb Way at the Civic Center. And, it calls for off-street parking lots all through Malibu to relocate vehicles that are parked by beach-goers on the shoulder, which is heavily used by bicyclists.
The city council will consider the plan at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Malibu City Hall, 23285 Stuart Ranch Rd., Malibu.