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Ground Breaks on Improvements for Streets Around Schools in Boyle Heights

9:28 AM PDT on May 24, 2018

The bulk of the $5 million in streetscape improvements will take place along Breed and Sheridan Streets and are intended to make it easier for students and their families to walk and bike to and from school. Source: Councilmember José Huizar

This morning, Councilmember José Huizar, officials from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), the Bureau of Engineering, and the L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD), and parents, teachers, and students from Breed and Sheridan Street elementary schools all joined forces to break ground on streetscape improvements intended to make it safer for parents and kids to walk and bike to and from those schools.

The improvements are a long time coming. The proposal for the project was first submitted for an Active Transportation Program (ATP) grant in 2014. And according to projected timelines, construction was to have already begun last year.

The project area is between Soto and St. Louis Streets, and at some point in the future, should include a bike lane and road diet running along Soto, between Wabash and 8th. [The goal of the road diet - which, like 1st Street, would include two travel lanes, a center turn lane, and bike lanes - would be to reduce collisions along Soto (by making it harder to speed) and making it safer for everyone who uses the street, especially those in the community who bike out of necessity.]

The Breed and Sheridan elementary schools were targeted because they had ranked among the top 40 LAUSD schools in greatest need of safety improvements.

Given that approximately 80 percent of all students live within a quarter-mile of both schools and two-thirds of all students walk or bike to class, the improvements are welcome.

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 10.30.41 AM
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Crossing main streets like Soto, 1st, Cesar Chavez can be difficult, as collisions mapped out by LADOT make clear.

But, as is true at too many of L.A.'s schools, side streets can also get hectic around school pick-up and drop-off times, as parents double park or dart in and around parked cars and families in the hopes of moving through congested school zones more quickly.

Consequently, the project aims to address safety at some of the major intersections while also looking to limit conflict on the neighborhood streets families are most likely to use.

According to a press release sent out by Huizar's office, specific improvements will include (all images and more explanation can be found here, unless otherwise noted):

    • Sidewalk repair at Chicago St. and 2nd St., and Soto from 4th to 2nd Streets
    • Curb Ramp Repair on Cornwell and Bird Streets
    • High visibility crosswalks on Chicago, Soto and Sheridan Streets
HighVisibilityCrosswalks-NACTO
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    • Leading pedestrian intervals (where pedestrians get a four-second head start in order to limit conflicts between them and drivers turning left or right) at intersections on E. Cesar Chavez Ave. at N. St. Louis St. and N. Breed St.
LeadPedestrianInterval-NACTO
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    • Mini-roundabouts on St. Louis St. at 2nd St. and at Michigan St.
Image from 2014 SRTS application
Image from the 2014 SRTS funding application
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    • Speed humps on St. Louis and Breed Streets from 6th St. to Sheridan St.
Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 10.33.17 AM
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    • Curb extensions on Soto Street at Folsom, 3rd and Sheridan streets, on Breed Street at 3rd, 4th and Folsom streets, at Sheridan and Cornwell streets, at Cesar Chavez Ave. and Brittania St., and at 4th and St. Louis Streets
Curb-Extension-01
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    • Bike boxes and bike loop detectors (sensors that detect bikes waiting at red lights) on Cesar Chavez Ave. at N. St. Louis and N. Breed Streets, and at Soto and Sheridan Streets (even though there are no bike lanes on any of those streets, minus the one planned for Soto)
Bike-boxes-01
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    • Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon crosswalk on E. Cesar Chavez Ave. and Cummings St.
RRFB-01
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    • New traffic signal on S. Soto and 3rd Streets and N. Soto and Boulder Streets
Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 10.08.03 AM
Source: SRTS Fact Sheet
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The project is one of several ongoing efforts aimed at improving pedestrian safety in the area and should be completed in 2019.

Other Projects in the Pipeline

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Image from the 2015 ATP grant application for the area targeted for improvements aimed at making it easier for Pico Gardens residents to connect with the rest of Boyle Heights.
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Community members recently met to discuss the $5 million in improvements to sidewalks and pedestrian lighting around the Pico Gardens community. Changes include new sidewalks along East 6th from Anderson to Clarence, along Clarence Street from Inez to the 6th St. Viaduct, and along an access road to be constructed as part of the Viaduct Project; sidewalk repairs along Clarence Street and Anderson Street from East 6th to the Viaduct, and along Jesse Street from Anderson to Clarence; new ADA-compliant curb ramps and high-visibility crosswalks in multiple locations; a long-overdue pedestrian-activated traffic signal at 4th and Clarence; and enhanced pedestrian lighting along Clarence St.

Phase II of the Eastside Access project - aimed at improving connectivity between the Metro stops at 1st Street and Soto Street for cyclists and pedestrians - is also underway. Planned fixes include improved sidewalks, curb extensions, bus stop lighting and bus benches, and more flowering trees.

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A seating area at 1st and Cummings, completed as part of the Eastside Access project. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
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That project, like with the first phase, was also meant to include more tree removal.

But diligent representatives from the councilmember's office who were concerned about the loss of Boyle Heights' already minimal tree canopy walked the streets with project staff in order to identify trees that could be saved.

Please don't cut .Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
"Please don't let them cut me" pleads a tree slated for removal along 1st Street. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
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Whittier Boulevard is also slated to see about $1 million in repairs to its sidewalks, although the timeline on that remains unclear.

And, of course, the $420 million 6th Street Viaduct project has been underway for a couple of years now (see our latest coverage here, links to past coverage can be found at the bottom of that story).

As always, such a flurry of activity can stir fears of gentrification. While the community deserves all these investments and more, residents remain keenly aware that public investment makes the area more attractive to developers and well-to-do would-be residents alike.

Although the recent departure of some of the galleries targeted by anti-gentrification activists might deter new ones from moving in for the moment, a recent job posting for a Cash for Keys negotiator with the capacity to convince residents to leave their homes unfortunately suggests that the area will continue to be a draw for newcomers, regardless of the condition of their sidewalks.

A recent posting on Craigslist seeks to
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For more details on the Breed and Sheridan Streets project, please visit the Safe Routes to School page, here.

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