Thursday, November 30, 2023

Community Voices: Coronado Traffic is Out of Control

The recent death of a pedestrian at Fourth and A should be a wakeup call for the City of Coronado, but will it? And the serious injury of a teenage pedestrian at Fourth and B about a year ago should have raised a red flag too, but it didn’t. It’s astonishing, but an EFFECTIVE and TIMELY plan of action from our City has yet to materialize, and all we get are more studies and surveys. Yes, CALTRANS is derelict too, so is the Navy, and San Diego judges don’t help much either. Solving our traffic problems will take a coordinated effort, but the safety of Coronado residents should be the top priority of our City leadership.

PROBLEM: Coronado streets have been commandeered by idiots, mostly from the other side of the bridge. Yeah, the ones who roll through stops signs leaving North Island; the ones who refuse to yield to pedestrians; the ones who block intersections and ignore local cross traffic; the ones who speed along Fourth and burn the light at Orange just to arrive home a couple car lengths sooner; the ones who ignore NO TURN signs and take the quickest side streets toward the bridge; the ones who turn left from C onto Fourth and don’t care that “left turn yields” to cross traffic.

EXACERBATING THE PROBLEM: We cannot wait for CALTRANS to relinquish control of Third and Fourth Streets to the City. We cannot reasonably slow traffic on those streets, in fact the speed limit may be raised. We can’t afford the time for endless traffic studies. We cannot “prevent” pedestrians and bicyclists from crossing Third and Fourth, and most will not go out of their way to cross at Orange.

SOLUTION: We need to separate pedestrians and bicyclists from Fourth Street traffic! Construct a pedestrian tunnel UNDER Fourth Street at B Avenue, and do it NOW! The City has $37M in funding reserves, so re-prioritize City funding to get a contract in place NOW. No, it’s not cheap but neither are lawsuits. Santa Barbara did this where State Street crosses Highway 101, so why doesn’t Coronado leadership make an immediate visit up there to see what can be done? A tunnel will definitely improve safety, reduce pollution, allow traffic to keep moving, and avoid pedestrians having to wait for traffic or risk a dangerous crossing. CALTRANS should not be an impediment – they don’t own the dirt UNDER the street. Assuming this one works, prioritize and add more at key intersections.

SOLUTION: Erect curbside bollards with chains at A and C street sidewalks and signs stating “DANGER. DO NOT CROSS. USE TUNNEL AT FOURTH & B” (or for now, “USE TRAFFIC LIGHT AT ORANGE”). A very quick and inexpensive safety improvement, and temporary signs could be put in place NOW.

SOLUTION: Convince the Navy to station a Security guard to control rush hour traffic departing North Island, or turning left or right from Alameda – it’s the least they could do! They did so for many years and could start again TOMORROW, at no cost to the City. Guards should allow a 10-15 second delay between each group of vehicles to create a moving traffic break to let local traffic and pedestrians safely cross Fourth between Alameda and Orange.

SOLUTION: Similar to traffic delays leaving North Island, CALTRANS could modify traffic light sequencing at Fourth and Orange, restrict left or right turns on red lights, and build in short delays to create moving traffic breaks between Orange and the bridge. This could be done quickly and at low cost.

SOLUTION: Enhanced traffic enforcement in Coronado is long overdue. “Speed alert” signs obviously don’t slow traffic on Third or Fourth, neither do police cars with no driver in them, and the safety of our residents is being seriously jeopardized by out-of-town drivers. The City needs to get the attention of those drivers, and make a statement that we will not tolerate traffic violations. City leadership should direct the Coronado PD to increase their police presence and initiate targeted enforcement, with priority given to safety-related violations: speeding, reckless driving, failure to yield to pedestrians, running stop signs and red lights, etc. Illegal turns should also be targeted because they increase traffic (and speeders) on residential surface streets. This cannot be a short term program, it must be done periodically if not continually, and must focus enforcement on the worst offenders. If manpower is an issue, re-prioritize CPD assignments, hire more police, request CHP assistance, or borrow officers from other police agencies (Coronado has done so previously).

SOLUTION: Immediately remove those STUPID teardrop stripes painted at the southbound intersections of A, B and C at Fourth. Many drivers ignore them, because funneling vehicles CROSSING Fourth into the same line as vehicles TURNING LEFT onto Fourth, only serves to impede traffic flow, aggravate drivers and foster road rage. There’s plenty of space for two separate lanes, one for left turn traffic only, and one for traffic continuing straight across Fourth.

SOLUTION: At those same southbound intersections at Fourth, post signs (temporary now, permanent later) indicating “LEFT TURN YIELDS TO CROSS TRAFFIC”. Many vehicles turning left ignore northbound cross traffic, especially after being stuck in the single “teardrop” lane. Collision potential in the middle of Fourth Street traffic is very high. Another quick and inexpensive safety improvement.

SOLUTION: Our traffic problems are out of control and cannot be “business as usual” – people are being injured and killed on our streets! City leadership should immediately convene a Traffic Task Force (NOT a local committee), with representation from Coronado’s City Manager, City Attorney, Police and traffic management; CHP; CALTRANS; Naval Base Coronado; the San Diego D.A.’s office; and San Diego Superior Court. The goal should be to identify our most urgent safety-related traffic problems, determine what can (and cannot) be done NOW to mitigate them, and then create and execute a TIMELY and PRIORITIZED plan of action.

There are many things which CAN be done to improve traffic safety, and they don’t all cost millions of dollars or take forever to implement. Focus on safety NOW, and postpone the frills like undergrounding power lines, bulb outs, sidewalk landscaping, etc. The only question: Is City leadership up to the task to take action NOW? As Dr. W. Edwards Deming often said, “It doesn’t matter when you begin, as long as you start TODAY”.

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