Bike Lanes, Crosswalks, Pedestrian Signals Coming to Dahab Crash Corner
Last Friday, the Baldwin Hills Conservancy, a county agency, awarded Culver City $570,000 to improve the intersection of Jefferson Boulevard and Hetzler road, the same intersection where Christine Dahab crashed into a group of stationary Midnight Ridazz early in the morning of June 16. The improvements include the installation of a raised median near the intersection to differentiate the area surrounding the Scenic Overlook and the rest of the park from the industrial area around it, bike lanes from Duquense Avenue to the west to the City border to the east, a sidewalk on both sides of Jefferson and installation of a pedestrian signal at Hetzler.
Referring to the improvements and the crash, Charles Herbertson, the Director of Public Works for Culver City said, “I’m not sure any of the things we’re proposing would have stopped that, but it couldn’t have hurt.” Herbertson also stressed that the proposal was before the Conservancy since before the crash and that the city has been trying to find funds to improve the intersection for a long time.
Even while the city scrambled to find funding to fix the intersection as more and more people used it to access the park, city leaders sounded the alarm that the intersection could claim lives before funding is identified. Consider these two quotes from Culver City Councilmen on the situation at Jefferson and Hetzler from Culver City Patch about a grant application for the Metro Call for Projects:
“My gut tells me that in between those years of waiting, something bad is going to happen across that boulevard and then we will have to react in lieu of waiting for that grant,” Cooper said.
O’Leary agreed as well, calling the situation an accident waiting to happen.
“It saddens me that we have to have accidents, possibly deaths on the roadway to prove that this is an area that this is absolutely needed,” O’Leary said. “I got an e-mail today stating that there are women bringing children, toddlers running across the street and there is traffic traveling at 50 miles an hour at a blind bend. If there is no funding, then we need to find a way, somehow.
If Culver City receives its proposed grant from the Metro Call for Projects, they will use it to extend the Jefferson Boulevard Bike Lanes another mile to Overland Ave.
The unsafe conditions at Jefferson and Hetzler were also hardly news to people who visit the park. Journalist Eddie North-Hager, founder of popular news websites Leimert Park Beat and Culver City Times, regularly visits the park and informed me over the weekend that everyone who visits the park knows the issues with Jefferson Blvd.
“I know a lot of people from Leimert Park and all over the city come to climb the Aztec pyramid like stairs. And we all park at the bottom along Jefferson, which is a major four-lane street with fast cars, few lights and few sidewalks,” North-Hager added, “I’ve seen a couple of car accidents as people were attempting to parallel park. I worry, both as a motorist and a pedestrian, of much worse collisions as people dart in and out of parked cars to cross the street. I hope they add some sidewalks, some additional parking and a lighted pedestrian crossing – these are the costs necessary for building what already is a very successful park.”
The pedestrian signal is actually as much about showing pedestrians where to cross the street as it is to slow traffic. Herbertson and North-Hager both noted that people are crossing the street where they parked and not at the unmarked crosswalk.
Even before the crash, the Culver City Bike Coalition has been backing the city’s efforts to create safe space for everyone at the deadly intersection of Jefferson and Hetzler. In a letter dated June of this year, the CCBC urged the Baldwin Hills Conservancy to get involved in funding safety improvements for Jefferson Boulevard near the Overlook.
But for Herbertson, the most important improvement is just letting drivers know that there is a park in the area, and to slow down. “It will help a lot, especially making the area more visible. The area is so industrial you can drive past it without realizing you’re passing a state park.”