Google screen grab of the intersection of Alamitos Avenue and Ocean Boulevard facing north. The proposed project would narrow traffic for motorists and add parking spaces and bike lanes for cyclists.
Another Long Beach road is headed for a diet as the Long Beach City Council approved an environmental impact report that will lay the ground for street improvements south of Seventh Street on Alamitos Avenue.
The project will reduce the lanes of traffic on Alamitos between Seventh and Ocean Boulevard from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction which will be separated by a shared left-turn lane. It will also install protected bike lanes as well as create 23 parking spaces during the evening hours as the city works to both limit pedestrian injuries and fatalities en route to creating a more walkable and bikeable city.
Long Beach Traffic Engineer Eric Widstrand said that between 2012 and 2016 that strip of Alamitos Avenue has accounted for 29 collisions involving people walking or cyclists riding and a total of 205 collisions overall. A separate stretch of Alamitos just north of the proposed project site underwent a similar makeover in which Widstrand said the results have been positive.
“The road diet on Alamitos Avenue from 7th Street north to Pacific Coast Highway has worked well from a traffic safety and operations perspective and has resulted in fewer traffic collisions with a collision rate dropping nearly 50 percent since this implementation,” Widstrand said.
The road diet will increase travel time but the city argues that it will come with increased safety for those walking and biking in that area of town. Widstrand said that during the morning peak travel times motorists could expect an increase in travel time of about 77 seconds and in the evening peak travel periods the increased travel time would be about 70 seconds.
“That’s common when you convert a road to a road diet and narrow the streets, but we do feel that we’ll be able to mitigate some of that increase in travel time by re-timing the traffic signals,” he said.
The costs and timeline for the project have yet to be determined as it will now go through a bid process before coming back to the council for approval of any request for proposal. Not everyone in attendance at Tuesday night’s meeting was in favor of decreasing lanes of traffic to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety.
Raymond San Miguel, who identified himself as a long-time resident of the city, said that these sorts of projects seem to be creating more congestion than anything else. He recounted a time at his friend’s house on Vista Avenue, a site of a previous road project, and said that the city’s efforts to increase bike usage was not witnessed during a full day’s work.
“We worked on his yard for eight hours and I didn’t see one person ride a bike down that street,” San Miguel said. “We have roadways that need repair, we have gutters and sidewalks that need repair and I feel that we’re just throwing away money. I know that we want to be a bike friendly city but it doesn’t make sense.”
Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, whose district includes the project area, said that not only will this inject much needed parking spots into the area, but bring the city closer to its “goal-zero” of injuries and deaths incurred by pedestrians involved in collisions with vehicles.
From 2006-2016 the city has seen bike and pedestrian accidents surpass 400 incidents with the rate of fatalities stemming from those injuries hovering in the low double digit totals. On her Facebook page, Pearce posted a graphic in advance of Tuesday night’s vote that both acknowledged the increased travel times but ended with “77 seconds to save a life.”
“I took Alamitos yesterday from PCH all the way down and the lights were synchronized, I drove a steady 30 miles an hour and everything was smooth,” Pearce said. “I’m excited about this and I think when we look at the transition between downtown and our neighborhoods we need to be able to have a safe space where people feel like ‘If I live in Alamitos Beach, I can walk to downtown, I can take my bike to downtown, and there is a vision for that.’”