As a Pacific Coast Highway accident attorney for over 20 years, I have seen both the beauty and danger of this great coastal roadway. The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), which spans 1700 miles along the coast of three states, is one of the most popular scenic drives in the U. S. Throughout the drive, there are a number of natural and man-made sights to see, but there are also a number of areas that have become so popular that driving has become heavily congested and even hazardous at times.
A recent study, funded by the Orange County Transportation Authority and the California Department of Transportation, evaluated the 37 mile stretch between Seal Beach and San Clemente in Orange County in order to determine ways that travel along the PCH can be made safer and more efficient.
The study was undertaken at the request of several of the cities located along that stretch of road, and the results have yielded some ideas for managing traffic and improving safety in a number of ways. One of the major drawbacks for these plans, however, is the exorbitant cost associated with making the needed changes.
In Newport Beach, California, there were 11 areas identified as needing improvement, but the major problems are heavy pedestrian traffic, narrow roadways combined with on-street parking and lots of bicyclists. Corona del Mar experiences many of these same issues as well.
In Huntington Beach, one of the major issues is the lack of coordination in the timing of traffic signals. This is causing significant back up at peak travel times that delay motorists. Traffic delays are further complicated by the large volumes of pedestrian traffic that are attempting to cross the road safely. Bicycles in that area are being forced to travel between parked cars, causing safety issues for the cyclists and for pedestrians alike.
In Laguna Beach, motorists and pedestrians are experiencing the same delays and congestion, and have the additional complication of narrow or missing sidewalks, putting pedestrians at even greater risk.
There have been a number of well-publicized accidents and fatalities along the PCH over the years, and the residents have been demanding upgrades for a long time. Though this study identifies the risks, it will up to the individual cities to implement the needed changes.
The proposed changes include widening roadways, installing fiber optic cable to coordinate traffic signals, installing bike lanes and eliminating parking spaces. Some county officials are concerned that some of these proposed changes, such as eliminating street parking, will cause even more problems with traffic flow. Additionally, there is only so much space to widen the roads, and in some areas it will be impossible.
For now, some of the most problematic areas are receiving grant funding to help get their projects underway. Approximately 2.25 million dollars is being granted by Orange County, and the city of Newport Beach has promised to contribute almost a half a million.
Despite these future improvements, traveling the PCH can pose risks for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists alike. The increase in summer-time vacation traffic can only increase these risks. Vacationers may not be aware of the potential hazards and may not exercise proper caution.