Don Porvan is the bike program engineer. Officer Mark McCullough brings more than 29 years' experience to the traffic division (his motto is “I've heard it all”). Oscar Cortes does traffic engineering. Karmen Tawifiq and her boss, traffic engineer Fred Goossens, know the intersection of Governor Drive and Genesee Avenue well. It was Goossens' 2010 plan that brought changes to this intersection.
Goossens' motto is probably "Be careful what you wish for."
University City Community Association President Barry Bernstein introduced the panel and shared with the audience that the Governor-Genesee intersection is the most talked-about or complained-about spot in South UC. The speed limit on Genesee leaped from 40 to 45 miles an hour, which means cars are racing through the community at 50-plus.
In the 2010 plan to improve safety and traffic, the community asked for an additional turn lane on Governor going south on Genesee since traffic and congestion in front of Vons Shopping Center and Curie School warranted the dual-turn lane. Besides that item, Goossens said, crosswalks were straightened, and traffic signals were modified. The "be careful what you wish for" motto materialized in part, because the dual lane took away the U-turn opportunity. Big cars couldn't make the turn and would be out in dangerous traffic situations, especially at rush hour. This meeting brought up complaints about this situation.
McCullough responded: “I've heard all of this before. The City got complaints, and you got a second turn (lane) with a no U-turn."
A young father was concerned about elementary school kids and Standley Middle School kids crossing Genesee (deja vu all over again, as this complaint was heard in 2010). He said that in other cities, it's all red signal at an intersection like Governor and Genesee, and pedestrians don't cross. When it's the pedestrians' turn, they all cross at once.
Former association board member Carole Pietras suggested staggering the school start times. Right now, schools are on the same schedule in South UC – and so many near-misses occur near Curie and Standley. One mom of a high school student said the start times got changed because parents of kids at Curie and Standley dropped their kids off at 7:30 a.m. at Curie. Standley started at 9:05, and the parents didn't want to hang around, especially those with jobs. So Standley, Spreckels and Curie start at the same time.
Centurion Square, the entrance on Genesee to University City High School, sometimes takes a half- hour to exit when school lets out. The south gate, locked for decades, has been opened to help the flow of traffic. Some teens in cars shoot across Genesee and try to make a U-turn. Parents aren't setting such good examples for their teen drivers, according to the traffic officer. They illegally park on the red curb and block the view of the high school drivers trying to leave campus from that south gate. Compound this with the closing of the back gate on campus because of construction. More cars are pouring out onto Genesee.
One man questioned why there is a "No Turn on Red" on Governor Drive at Regents Road. He thinks it is causing more congestion and should be enforced only during the peak of rush hours. His big push was the perennial hot-button topic in UC: Regents Road Bridge. He sees the bridge as a solution to traffic congestion, although many challengers see this move as just bleeding more traffic into the community and making Governor a racetrack.
Porman made it clear that "We don't address Regents Road Bridge. That belongs to long-term planning. We handle operational improvements on (a) short-term basis." Bernstein said that Mayor Kevin Faulconer is issuing a new traffic study around this subject in five or six months.
Another parent of a Spreckels student suggested a way to beat congestion near Curie: Close Curie and combine Curie and Spreckels into the Spreckels campus, where there is room for 850 students (only 200 are enrolled). He also suggested making Curie into a retail shopping center (he might be tarred and feathered by the Curie moms).
Another serious concern is that the bike lane in front of Curie is faded out 200 feet before Genesee. In other words, cars and bikes are sharing the same far right lane. Not good.
According to another guy, his wife had a one-hour and five-minute commute from Campus Point Drive near Scripps Hospital to Governor, and he blamed the bus and bike lanes drawn out on Genesee. Cars are being squeezed out of lanes to drive.
Moving west on Governor, the idea of a roundabout at Mercer Street across from Swanson Pool at Standley Park is something the City and some locals would love to see built to slow traffic on Governor. Softscape or striping improvements and adding green paint could narrow the lanes and make it an easier ride for bikers, drivers and pedestrians, according to Porman, who is working on a design for that area.
At Lakewood Street pretty far east on Governor, everyone seemed to want a signal light. Drivers are racing 50 or 60 miles an hour on Governor to go to I-805 or the business park at Greenwich Drive. It is almost impossible to get onto Governor from Lakewood. At one time, the City did a traffic count, but it was done in August, when school was out, and wasn't reflective of traffic during school. Funding that signal light is an issue.
In a nod to senior citizens, the question was posed as to why there isn't bus transportation on Governor east of Genesee, the way there is on the west side of Governor, so many senior citizens would avail themselves of buses.
One might think that people driving in UC from outside the community get the most traffic tickets. In truth, the locals on side streets get the tickets for speeding, according to Mc Cullough. Speed bumps like those on Milliken Street, parallel to Governor, slow the cars, but they make the fire department cringe,
A woman who has lived in UC since 1962 complained about the intersection of Regents Road and Pennant Way. Trying to make a right turn or left turn, she said, is next to impossible during rush hour. A signal light is needed at Pennant. Funding isn't available.
Goossens remembers that in 2010, when the Governor-Genesee intersection was the problem, he attended a few community meetings seeking input from locals. Both sides complained. Yeah, McCullough is right: “I've heard it all before." However, a new conversation was started at the meeting that included endorsement from Council President Sherri Lightner's office. The panel listened politely to locals vent and promised to get answers to community concerns of 2015.