City Explores One-way Ocean Avenue

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By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent

The Laguna Beach City Council green-lighted city staffers Tuesday to draw up designs for converting a stretch of Ocean Avenue from Beach Street to South Coast Highway into a one-way street to improve traffic flow and create 10 new parking spaces.

If the street reconfiguration is ultimately approved by the City Council, residents would also see the crosswalk at Ocean Avenue and South Coast Highway relocated from the south to the north side of the intersection. The city’s traffic consultants argue that the crosswalk relocation will cut the time drivers spend waiting to turn left from Ocean Avenue onto South Coast Highway.

Additionally, there will also be two turn lanes that allow traffic to flow from Ocean Avenue onto both directions of South Coast Highway.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman appeared to be supportive of the street improvements but recommended a tweak to the pedestrian crossing signal at Broadway Street, since drivers would no longer be able to turn onto Ocean Avenue from South Coast Highway.

Part of the problem with taking a right on Broadway in a real traffic back-up is that the pedestrian cross happens at the very beginning of that light,” Iseman said. “I propose that we delay the pedestrian crossing so the people who are trying to go right can go right and the traffic doesn’t continue to back up.”

Laguna Beach first started looking at converting Ocean Avenue to a one-way street in 2006 as part of a study to improve traffic on Laguna Canyon Road and in downtown. The Council at the time approved six recommendations from this study. Last March, the City Council commissioned a detailed study of the impacts and infrastructure requirements of converting Ocean Avenue into a one-way street.

In addition to the traffic changes, city staffers estimate that they can add 10 diagonal parking spaces along Ocean Avenue by converting the street to one-way. These are important spaces, considering the city expects to lose eight spaces in front of Main Beach as part of a larger project to improve traffic flow on South Coast Highway.

The relocation of the crosswalk to the north side of the intersection will require the city to install costly wheelchair accessible ramps, add new pedestrian crossing light panels and buttons, and reconstruct storm drains. City staffers estimate a total cost of $65,000 for all the proposed intersection and one-way street improvements.

City Manager John Pietig said the project’s entire cost would be paid for by the city if it’s to be completed quickly because county and state grant funds probably won’t be available any time soon.

City staffers plan to mail property owners and tenants of properties on and around Ocean Avenue about the proposal to improve the street. A public outreach meeting on the project will either be held in the Council Chambers or the Susi Q Center and advertised on the city’s social media pages and website.

Councilman Bob Whalen said that the project should return to the City Council for final approval to offer residents sufficient opportunity to give their input before any construction contract is awarded.

My experience here in six years is that opposition only crystalizes when we’re about to make a decision on something no matter how many public outreach sessions we’ve had,” he said.

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