Seeing red! Manhattan Beachers want city to ignore rules and put in traffic light

Traffic nightmare: Manhattan Beach resident Edmond Dweck says a flashing yellow light at Oriental Boulevard and Ocean Avenue causes confusion and encourages speeding.
Photo by Bess Adler

Manhattan Beach residents want the city to ignore its own rules and put a traffic light on Oriental Boulevard, even though the intersection doesn’t qualify for a signal under federal safety guidelines.

Residents say the flashing yellow light currently at Ocean Avenue confuses drivers, encourages speeding, and puts pedestrians at risk on a thoroughfare some call the “Oriental Autobahn.”

“It creates confusion and there’s no safe place for people to cross,” said Manhattan Beach resident Ron Biondo.

The Manhattan Beach Community Group and Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association, rival groups that argue about everything — including the best way to reduce neighborhood speeding — have repeatedly urged the city to replace the blinking signal with a full traffic light.

But the city’s refused, claiming that the corner hasn’t met a federally mandated benchmark

A minimum of 650 cars and 250 pedestrians must consistently use an intersection every hour to warrant a traffic light, according to federal guidelines — and city officials say that Oriental Boulevard doesn’t make the grade.

But it isn’t for lack of trying: the city was encouraged to conduct two studies of the intersection in both 2008 and 2010, but the roadway didn’t make the grade either time.

Last week, engineers from the Department of Transportation performed a third study at the behest of residents, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) and Councilman Mike Nelson (D–Manhattan Beach).

“Traffic needs to be calmed here,” Nelson said. “This new study is a giant step in the right direction.”

Residents said they’re hopeful that their requests for a signal will get a green light.

“This should have happened years ago,” said Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association member Edmond Dweck. “It shouldn’t be dictated by the books.”

But a spokesman for the Department of Transportation said the decision will ultimately depend on the results of the latest study.

“DOT is in the process of collecting data and will provide results when the analysis is completed,” an agency spokesperson said.

The traffic light isn’t the only safety measure residents have demanded for to Oriental Boulevard since four-year-old Evan Svirsky was killed by a B49 bus on Oriental Boulevard in 2010. Neighbors have also asked the city to put the borough’s first 20 mile-per-hour “slow zone,” and demanded high-tech speed cameras that would allow the city to ticket drivers for breaking the speed limit on the straightaway toward Kingsborough Community College.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

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