In the last 10 years, 30 people have been killed in car accidents along the twisting, two-lane highway known as Laguna Canyon Road, which connects Laguna Beach with inland Orange County at the San Diego Freeway.
And now, after years of debate, it appears that the California Department of Transportation and Laguna Beach officials might reach a compromise on an $11-million project to prevent further fatalities along the stretch of road known as Big Bend, between Canyon Acres Drive and El Toro Road.
Laguna Beach City Manager Kenneth C. Frank said he will recommend to the City Council tonight that it support Caltrans' latest proposal for widening Laguna Canyon Road from two lanes to four in the Big Bend stretch.
City officials have long favored widening the road but until now they--along with the California Coastal Commission--have rejected former Caltrans proposals because they would have destroyed too much of the canyons and cow-dotted pastures on either side of the eight-mile highway.
During an Oct. 21 workshop, city and Caltrans staff members discussed the current proposal, which would include widening the highway to four, 12-foot lanes, an eight-foot shoulder/bicycle path on each side, and a 14-foot median along the length of the project.
Caltrans agreed to make some changes from its 1986 proposal, such as reducing the amount of grading from 2.3 million cubic yards to 530,000 cubic yards; reducing the maximum height of the cut slope along the road from 410 feet to 300 feet, and reducing the maximum speed from 50 to 45 m.p.h.
However, Frank said in a report to the council that the proposal still "is not perfect" and that he is urging the council to give conditional approval until the city and Caltrans can work out differences on landscaping, underground utility lines, curbs and traffic signals.
Caltrans has refused to pay for landscaping, citing a tight state transportation budget, but Frank said it is essential that Caltrans landscape the concrete median to offset destruction of natural habitat in widening the road.
An environmental impact statement on the proposed widening determined that there will be additional traffic congestion at the Laguna Beach end of the highway. Frank suggested that the city require Caltrans to install a traffic signal at the Beach and Broadway intersection.