It was a full City Hall council chamber as residents gathered for the first public presentation of preliminary refinements to two Metro Measure R-funded traffic projects in San Marino at the Public Safety Commission meeting August 16. Residents were invited to share suggestions on what they liked and disliked about the ideas, which were collected across numerous previous public meetings.
As approved across the July 10 and July 26 City Council meetings, the refinements involved part of Project 1 (improve traffic flow with public input at intersection of Atlantic Boulevard/Huntington Drive/Los Robles Avenue/Garfield Avenue for $8 million) and Project 2 (Huntington Drive improvements near school sites for $6 million). Initially there were five projects totaling $32, as part of Metro’s alternative plan for the 710 N study to alleviate congestion and traffic flow. San Marino’s City Council and Mayor Dr. Steven Huang have rejected all others.
Michael Throne, director of Parks and Public Works and city engineer, noted that for Project 1, special emphasis was focused on “reducing as much as practicable traffic using Los Robles from Atlantic” and the city would be seeking a holistic solution in conjunction with Alhambra and South Pasadena, who share ownership of the intersection.
“This, as I said, is a very interesting and complex intersection and when we get to that point, we will have to hire a very experienced transportation engineering firm to sort out and design the best functioning intersection,” said Throne.
From city limits to city limits, the preliminary plans call for a continuous three lanes of traffic along Huntington Drive to “encourage a slower and more consistent, uniform path through town,” according to Throne. Where there are four lanes coming into the city, those lanes will drop to three before they get into the city. There will be no merging of four lanes into three within the city, according to Throne. Pending engineering and safety analysis by the city traffic engineer, there are plans to change the through lanes into two 10-foot wide lanes and one 12-foot wide lane.
Within the Project 1 intersection, directional signage helping to clarify routes will be added before cars reach the lights. Throne said it will help with the congestion and confusion that some new drivers to the area experience.
“The purpose of this project being in the Metro plan is that work that’s done here improves the flow at this intersection in all the different legs and from our perspective, we want to improve the flow into [Los] Robles here by sending it somewhere else,” said Throne.
Resident Stephanie Johnson said she was “happy to see this plan going forward” and she hoped for the city to work with South Pasadena to remove the no left turn restriction at Garfield Avenue and Huntington Drive.
“I think this is very good,” said Johnson. “We’re happy to see that there’s hope.”
For the Project 2 work along Huntington Drive near the schools, there are plans to pull the parking lane as far away from the number three outside lane as possible. Turning lanes into Valentine School and Huntington Middle School would be added in addition to a striped safety divide for parking areas along the road and new curbs and gutters around the trees.
“This has been proposed so this third lane acts more like a through lane and if you want to do your turning off into the school entrances, there will be a right turn pocket that’s not in the number three lane so that gets that traffic out and off the number three lane as quickly as possible,” said Throne. “As you come out of the schools, you have a little distance to merge before you get into the number three lane.”
“What this does is it keeps this slow moving traffic from congesting that number three lane. Because currently you have parking, you have merging, and you have turning all going on in this lane…it really does impede the flow here and it creates quite a safety hazard for those who are dropping off and picking up kids,” Throne continued.”
For Project 2 near Carver School, there will be a striped safety divider added between the outside lane and parking lane on both sides of Huntington Drive to the west of San Gabriel Boulevard.
For the roadway by San Marino High School (SMHS), there are preliminary plans to close two driveways by the parking lot and have one single entrance. The school traffic exit via the city alley would become an exit only with a new traffic signal at Winston Way linked to the Huntington Drive signal. Parking along Huntington would be added with a striped safety divider.
Curbs would also be pulled out before the traffic entrance at the high school and before Winston Avenue. Throne shared there will still be a turnout lane into Tony’s Pizza but there are plans to make a more dedicated and narrow fourth lane. The work will involve “cleaning up a lot of the extra pavement that breeds a lot of driver confusion,” said Throne.
Resident Hector Gutierrez shared concern at the idea of blocking two exits and only leaving one.
“I think that’s really going to back up things,” said Gutierrez, suggesting for a possible second drop off area.
Resident Stan Pitts spoke up for the traffic that gathers on Winston Avenue as people wait before and after school at SMHS. He was concerned that making the city alley an exit only for the school would exacerbate the issue.
“Don’t stick people on this street,” said Pitts. “Don’t stick a traffic light there. That’s only about 60 feet…and another 100 ft to Cumberland [Road]. That’s a mess. Don’t ruin our neighborhood.”
Wrapping up the meeting, Throne said he was “very appreciative of the folks that came out” and will be incorporating their input onto further refining the project plans before they’re presented at the next Public Safety Commission meeting Monday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. in City Hall, followed by a workshop session with City Council at the Crowell Public Library on Sept. 27 at 8:30 a.m.
The preliminary plans are currently on view at City Hall, the Crowell Public Library and available online under the Public Safety Commission’s Aug. 19 agenda.
Additional ideas and comments can be submitted to the city via email@example.com and by calling (626) 300-0765.