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Couple Wins Slow-Going Victory in Traffic Battle

November 12, 2000|MARCIE GEFFNER

The homeowners on Penny Cotten's street in a residential area of Los Angeles near Venice High School were unanimous in their decision to have the city install a series of speed humps, but that didn't make getting the financing or the approvals for the humps any easier.

For two years, Cotten, a technical writer in the computer industry, and her husband, Joseph, a freelance animator, spent six or more hours a week attending traffic mitigation meetings, gathering signatures on petitions and acting as the point of contact for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (DOT).

The Cottens were motivated by the dangerous traffic situation on the street and the planned opening of a super-size club store not far from their home.

"Our street has three schools on it. It is zoned residential, and the posted speed limit is 25 miles per hour," Penny Cotten says. "If a street is a straight shot, [where drivers] can see whether the signal light at the end is red or green, it's easier to speed than it is if the street is hilly or curvy. Our street is a straight shot and people were driving aggressively at speeds up to 50 miles per hour. One of our cars was struck in the rear as we were pulling into our own driveway. A number of parked cars and animals were struck. It just wasn't safe."

The club store turned out to be a mixed blessing. The Cottens' neighborhood was impacted adversely by traffic heading to and from the store, but a $300,000 traffic mitigation fund set up by the retailer paid for the speed humps on the Cottens' street.

"The hardest part was getting recognized [by the traffic mitigation committee] as a street that would be impacted by the store. Our street was going to suffer and we needed some kind of mitigation. [But] for a lot of the busiest streets, city officials say, 'That street is already too busy and nothing can be done about it.' But things can be improved," she says.

Three humps and associated signs were installed earlier this year, and Cotten has been thrilled with the results.

"The DOT still moves a lot of traffic on our street," she says, "but we don't have crazy drivers at night anymore. Now, they go somewhere else. It's been a huge improvement in the quality of our lives."

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