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Solutions Sought to Sunset Traffic Perils : Safety: The city is considering traffic lights and a center divider to halt accidents near Bentley Avenue in Bel-Air.

February 07, 1991|KENNETH J. GARCIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A center divider and a traffic signal may be added to a dangerous stretch of Sunset Boulevard in Bel-Air to combat a rash of traffic accidents, according to city officials.

Members of the Bel-Air Assn. were told recently that city traffic engineers are conducting studies to find the best solution to the longstanding traffic problem on Sunset near Bentley Avenue. Shortly before Christmas, three people were killed in a head-on collision at the intersection, and area residents have complained for years that there are several near-misses each day at the site.

Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, city police officials and traffic engineers met with about 40 area residents last week to hear complaints and possible solutions on how to make Sunset Boulevard between the San Diego Freeway (405) and Veteran Avenue safer.

Several residents said that they wanted more stoplights installed to slow traffic on the poorly banked road. The blind curve near Bentley causes some drivers to lose control of their cars and, in some cases, has sent them careening onto front lawns. One Sunset Boulevard resident said a car actually landed in his swimming pool one evening.

However, city officials said a traffic light alone would not solve the problem of cars crossing the center line into oncoming traffic.

"It is clear that the main safety problem is that people are crossing into oncoming lanes," Yaroslavsky told the Bel-Air residents. "You are going to need something else to solve that problem, and perhaps the best answer is a center divider and a traffic signal. But there's no question that it is a dead man's curve, and it's a tragic situation."

Brian Griffith, a city traffic engineer, said it would be impossible to widen and more effectively bank that portion of Sunset because it would require residents to relinquish part of their properties to the city. He said that problems with the curve are exacerbated by speeding cars and a huge volume of traffic along Sunset.

Capt. Vance Proctor, head of the West Los Angeles Police Department's traffic division, said the stretch of Sunset between the 405 Freeway and Veteran Avenue has become the department's "No. 1 priority in the Westside." Proctor said police have stepped up enforcement in the area, issuing more than 500 traffic citations there during the month of January.

Yaroslavsky told the residents that a traffic study on the impact of adding a center divider, a stoplight or a flashing signal should be completed by March 1. Bentley Avenue residents urged the city to install a barrier and traffic lights as soon as possible.

"When you make a left-hand turn into Bentley now ,you're taking your life in your hands," said resident Barbara Bauer.

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