By Sue Favor
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Area residents who would like to see the volatile Western Avenue corridor made safer are being encouraged to provide input for a planned city street project.
The Los Angeles Department of Transportation is proposing traffic safety improvements along a 4.5-mile stretch of the thoroughfare between Martin Luther King and Century boulevards. The area is in the city’s “high injury network,” which includes the streets with the highest number of fatal or severe injury crashes.
City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, whose 8th District includes the street, said the project is of paramount importance.
“Transportation equity is a matter of life and death,” he said in a press release. “Western Avenue is an example of systemic disinvestment that we live everyday. The street began as one of L.A.’s thoroughfares, and has become one of the most dangerous streets for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.”
Over a 10-year period ending in 2019, there were 136 crashes on Western that resulted in severe injury or death, according to Department of Transportation statistics. Fifty-nine percent of those accidents involved people walking or riding bikes. More than 76,000 people live within a half-mile of the street, and there are 18 schools and five parks in the area, as well.
Residents can take the survey at: ladot.lacity.org/western to identify the improvements they would like to see on the corridor. Projects under consideration include upgraded street lighting, speed deterrents, protected left-turn signals, bike infrastructure, repaving and curb extensions.
By the end of the year, the city will collect the input and formulate a project design, which will be presented to the community by next spring. After gathering feedback, the final design will be formulated by next summer.
In a year’s time, the city will apply for state grant funding. During the winter of 2022, the city will install new pedestrian walk signals at intersections, using local funds. In 2023, the state will announce whether a grant has been awarded to complete the Western Avenue Redesign Project.
Damien Kevitt, executive director of Streets are for Everyone, has led demonstrations for pedestrian and bicycle safety at Slauson and Western, one of the deadliest intersections in the city. He said he is excited that there are plans for improvements.
“With the increase in traffic caused injuries and fatalities primarily in South L.A., this project to redesign parts of Western Avenue so the community is safer is long overdue,” Kevitt said. “Ask anyone who lives along Western Avenue, they know how dangerous it is and how badly this investment in the safety of this community is needed.”
However, Kevitt said the timeline of the project is extended too far, in light of the danger along the avenue.
“While I am relieved this project is starting to move forward I am deeply concerned about how long it takes to implement sensible measures to save lives,” he said. “This project was first proposed in 2017, and per the current [city] timeline, we won’t even know if there’s funding to do any of these improvements till 2023, let alone how long it will take to implement any of them. That’s too long!”
Kevitt said that in that time there will be an estimated 40 more crashes along this short stretch of road, resulting in lives destroyed or lost.
“The process to safeguard the lives of those who live and work along Western Ave needs to be sped up,” he added.