By Bradley Zint
8:30 PM PST, December 6, 2012
Broadway might be a traffic-filled destination street in some cities, but in Costa Mesa, a city project is attempting to make it the very opposite.
The two-lane Eastside street, which spans the distance from Newport Boulevard to Irvine Avenue, is undergoing an estimated $1.17-million renovation that aims to deter and slow traffic by adding mid-block medians and intersection "chokers."
The Broadway Safe Route to Schools Project also makes sure no parking is lost, adds an asphalt layer on top of the concrete, completes sidewalks and adds drought-tolerant landscaping.
Although still underway, the project is receiving mixed reactions. Some are already praising its success in slowing down vehicles, but others question the safety of those "crazy planters."
Mary Makena says she has been subject to more than her fair share of vehicle noise since moving into her home at Broadway and Santa Ana Avenue in 1979.
"It was more like a racetrack," she said, adding that she did noise-reduction work on the walls, windows and roof of her house. She even added a fountain and waterfall outside.
Still, the noise was "incredible," as were the four drunk drivers who "plowed into my yard, right up to the waterfall," she said.
Now, with the mitigation project, Makena finds that she can sleep with her windows open for the first time.
"My goal was always that Broadway will look as good as Floral Park in Santa Ana," Makena said of that city's historic district of Craftsman homes and Spanish bungalows.
Richard Herman, who lives on nearby Costa Mesa Street, in a published letter to the Daily Pilot, called each planter "a collision waiting to happen."
They weren't visible at night until the city added flashing lights and other reflectors, he said.
In an interview, he expressed concerns that the bike lanes may be hazardous alongside the car lanes. The whole setup, he alleged, can ruin property values and, consequently, the tax base — all for an "obstacle course" en route to Westcliff Plaza off Irvine Avenue.
No safety issues foreseen
City officials said they don't foresee safety issues between bikes and vehicles, but if there are any, the city will seek appropriate solutions as time progresses.
Emergency vehicles will also have enough clearance to get through, and the medians and chokers will be visible at night, officials said.
Eastside residents have been complaining about traffic and excessive speed on Broadway for years. City Hall decided to try the medians as a potential solution to a longtime problem.
This kind of mitigating solution is the first of its kind in Costa Mesa, but not in the county.
It's been done in Seal Beach, Santa Ana and elsewhere, said Raja Sethuraman, the city's transportation services manager.
The city also met about five times with residents before the project began, he said.
"We had great cooperation with the neighbors during the process," he said. "They've been very patient during the process. This will be great when it's all said and done."
Deputy city CEO and Economic and Development Director Peter Naghavi, who was involved in the city's transportation department for various Broadway projects and other issues, echoed Sethuraman.
"In a few weeks, once people get used to it, they will appreciate what we're doing," he said.
"If it's successful, we will do it on other streets that experience similar problems," Naghavi added.
He also predicted a slight shift in traffic to nearby streets from users bypassing the renovated Broadway.
Sethuraman said the city is hoping to complete the project — which is funded by a state Safe Routes to School grant and Measure M money — by the end of the year.
Trees and other vegetation should be coming starting Monday, he said.
'Do you care about speed?'
For 11 years, Michael Moon has lived on Broadway, where he saw cars zoom by as fast 80 mph in what's officially a 25 mph zone.
"I'm sure car owners would rather go faster, but if you live in the place, you'd rather them go 25," he said. "It's hard to maintain a residential feel with the streets becoming traffic-filled."
Jim Fitzpatrick, a Costa Mesa Sanitary District director who lives on Broadway, said while he usually sees staunch opposition to changes in his neighborhood, he hoped any detractors will take pause this time around.
"Do you care about speed?" he said. "If so, please allow this to continue until it is planted and paved, and then we'll take a period to wait and see."