A new bill from Sen. Scott Wiener could prompt Caltrans to make pedestrian and bicycle safety upgrades to all state roads — including Pacific Coast Highway, which spans roughly 8 miles through Long Beach.

Just this month, three people were killed on that stretch of highway in the course of eight days.

Earlier this year, I wrote about Pacific Coast Highway and the apparent lack of urgency to address mounting safety concerns, as traffic fatalities continue to occur regularly on the state-managed road.

Our section of PCH runs through Central Long Beach past Poly High School and Long Beach City College’s Pacific Coast Campus. The belt of speeding cars cuts through rich and poor neighborhoods alike.

But because it is a state highway, the city of Long Beach has little control over its physical design; any changes that could provide more safety for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers have to be approved by Caltrans.

State funding has been allocated to address safety concerns on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, where four Pepperdine students were killed in October. Caltrans will “…move forward on a draft list of 30 upgrades … including enhanced striping on curves, optical speed bars … speed feedback signs, speed limit markings on the pavement and replacement of safety corridor signs,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

But, although a Caltrans official told me, “Safety is our number one priority and goal at Caltrans and we seek to achieve zero deaths on all roads,” he was unable to confirm there are any efforts to make changes to the highway here in Long Beach.

The bill introduced by Wiener could change that.

On Wednesday, Wiener introduced Senate bills 960 and 961, which are part of the Speeding and Fatality Emergency Reduction on California Streets (SAFER California Streets) package.

Senate Bill 960 “requires that Caltrans, the state transportation agency, make physical improvements like new crosswalks and curb extensions on state-owned surface streets to better accommodate pedestrians, cyclists, the disability community, and transit users,” according to a statement from the senator’s office.

Senate Bill 961 involves introducing speed-limiting technology to new cars, and the two bills were introduced together as a “first-in-the-nation effort to make California roads safe and accessible to all users,” the statement said.

Wiener’s statement also noted that the changes “are a head-on attempt to tackle vehicle fatalities, which are surging across the U.S. — and especially in California — amid a rise in reckless driving since the onset of the pandemic,” and that “a recent report from TRIP, a national transportation research group, found that traffic fatalities in California have increased by 22% from 2019 to 2022, compared to 19% for the U.S. overall. In 2022, 4,400 Californians died in car crashes.”

We wrote about the rise in traffic deaths here in Long Beach in January of last year. There were 36 people killed in traffic that year as well, and nine of those deaths were on Pacific Coast Highway.

Five more people have died in traffic so far this year, according to Long Beach Police.

Hopefully, this new legislation will make Caltrans build the safety upgrades that will save lives.