A freshman lawmaker is renewing a push to install traffic signals at a confusing Manhattan Beach intersection — despite the city’s insistence the crossing does not need stoplights.
Councilman Chaim Deutsch confronted transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg at a joint hearing of the Council’s Transportation and Public Safety committees on Feb. 24, saying the city needs to install traffic signals at the intersection of Oriental Boulevard and Ocean Avenue, because the flashing yellow light there now only confuses drivers — and has led to crashes.
“Drivers have repeatedly complained that the flashing yellow signal at Oriental Boulevard and Ocean Avenue is more confusing than helpful,” Deutsch said. “The existing blinking signal merely exacerbates an already hazardous environment for motorists and pedestrians alike.”
Residents have been complaining for years about the light, which is near a popular playground. The intersection is already equipped for a full traffic signal, but the light is programed to function only as a flashing yellow.
“All the sensibility in the world says it should be a traffic signal,” said Edmond Dweck, spokesman for the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association. “People assume the light is out of order, so they just slide through it.”
The confusion is blamed in several fatalities at and around the intersection in recent years. A B49 bus struck and killed 4-year-old Evan Svirsky at the intersection in 2010.
The city has conducted traffic studies of the area in 2008, 2010, and 2012, but said the intersection did not meet the minimum criteria for a signal under federal regulations.
Still, Trottenberg said at the hearing that her department would look into the problem.
“Yes the yellow flashing light is ‘proceed with caution,’ but obviously, if in a particular location people are confused by it, and it’s not helping, then we should certainly take a look and try and find a better solution,” Trottenberg said.
The last time the community got the Department of Transportation to reconsider the intersection, however, after an initial hope of progress, the ultimate outcome was disappointing.
Dweck said he and neighbors met with the department’s Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Joseph Palmeri two years ago to address the problem with the light, and shortly after the meeting, it stopped blinking yellow and started operating as a regular traffic signal.
But when he said he sent a letter to Palmeri thanking him for the fix, Palmeri said that the “fix” was an error, and the signal would have to revert back to a blinking light.
“For two weeks, we had normalcy — peace, calm, no speeding,” Dweck said.