Last month, a man was sitting at a bus stop on Pacific Coast Highway near Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue when a speeding car hit and killed him.

He was one of eight people who have been killed by traffic on Pacific Coast Highway this year, making it one of Long Beach’s deadliest roads. This would seem like a perfect target for the city’s Safe Streets initiative aimed at stemming the rising number of traffic deaths and ultimately eliminating them altogether.

Long Beach’s Department of Public Works does have projects in the pipeline on dozens of roadways intended to decrease speeds and increase safety, but Pacific Coast Highway is not among them because — as a state route — it is managed by Caltrans, not the city. This designation adds another layer of complexity to getting any improvements done because multiple different groups must coordinate with each other to make changes.

To that end, some local politicians are trying to better coordinate with Caltrans. After this most recent fatality, I called Assemblymember Josh Lowenthal, whose 69th District covers most of Long Beach and a stretch of PCH from the 110 Freeway to Seal Beach. He says he has created a task force of local and state officials to address roadway safety on this state-managed road.

“I’m not only looking in my capacity as a lawmaker and a legislator but I’m a resident and part of that community,” he told me. “I live [near the 2ND & PCH shopping center] so I’m a stakeholder. It concerns my family’s safety, and my neighborhood.”

He said that a few months ago he met with Long Beach City Councilmember Kristina Duggan, who represents Council District 3 in southeast Long Beach, and they agreed to create a Caltrans ‘task force.’ It includes the city traffic engineer Paul van Dyke; Shane Weaver, government affairs liaison from Caltrans District 7; and Nick Kaspar, chief of staff to Councilmember Duggan.

They have met twice so far, with various members from Caltrans and the city in attendance, according to Clayton Heard, senior field representative for Lowenthal’s office. The next meeting will be in the new year, where they plan to discuss their near-term goal of improving traffic light timing and identifying signals that need to be adapted.

While the short-term goals are “not super exciting,” according to Heard, the plan is that this group could be the starting point for much bigger ideas.

“I think it’s too early to identify any specific infrastructure projects,” Heard said in an email. “Right now we are really focused on bringing the different parties together to establish a more regular communication.”

“The whole idea,” Lowenthal said, “is to bring all these groups together to improve coordination between all of these different stakeholders.”

Hopefully, down the line, he said, the task force can discuss ideas or projects that will come from city and Caltrans engineers.

“We, the Office of Assemblymember Lowenthal, don’t really have any say over infrastructure projects,” Heard said. “That’s up [to] the City or Caltrans, we are just encouraging them to really consider the safety and traffic impacts in this area, and elevate the constituent concerns that we have received.”

With several major housing projects coming to the area, Lowenthal said we need to prepare and make sure these streets are safe and can handle car, pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

He’s right to be concerned about this with more than 1,200 new housing units slated to be built at the already notoriously busy intersection of Second Street and PCH.

“Overall we just need to continue investing in multi-modal transportation,” Lowenthal said, “and make sure the streets are safe for everybody.”

Hopefully, others in the task force will agree, and start working on plans to invest in transit and pedestrian and bike safety on the road that bisects our city. Every person walking, riding a bike, or taking transit is one less car on the road, and that makes our streets safer for everybody.

Do you have ideas for the task force? Assemblymember Lowenthal’s office can be reached here. Caltrans also has a standing email address for service requests: