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LCAD wants signal sooner rather than later

After fatal accident, college president seeks installation on Laguna Canyon Road in time for fall classes.

April 24, 2014|By Bryce Alderton
  • The flashing crosswalk in front of Laguna College of Art   Design on Laguna Canyon Road.
The flashing crosswalk in front of Laguna College of Art… (DON LEACH / Coastline…)

At the request of Laguna College of Art + Design's president, Caltrans and the city are looking at ways to speed up installation of a traffic signal along state-owned Laguna Canyon Road.

LCAD President Jonathan Burke's request comes after 22-year-old Nina Fitzpatrick, a fine-arts student, died after she was hit by a car in the crosswalk at 8:45 p.m. April 3 in front of the main campus, at 2222 Laguna Canyon Road.

Police said an 83-year-old Minnesota woman driving a Honda sedan struck Fitzpatrick, who lived in Costa Mesa. The driver was not cited or arrested by police.

Caltrans is scheduled to install a traffic signal in front of the main campus in 2015, but Burke would like the pedestrian-activated signal ready by fall.

The proposed HAWK pedestrian crossing system would use yellow and red lights and lighted displays of a person walking as well as a hand to guide drivers and pedestrians.

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"Everyone knows a red light means stop, not caution, not slowing down," Burke said. "A red light would be an improvement."

Caltrans is doing everything it can to accelerate the process, spokesman David Richardson said, acknowledging that the state agency has rules to follow.

Engineers are working on design plans for the signal before bids are sought.

The signal will cost Caltrans about $75,000, Richardson said.

Burke also wants the speed limit reduced from 45 to 35 mph along that stretch of Laguna Canyon Road. But Richardson says that won't be so easy.

"Speed limits on California freeways are set by the state Legislature," Richardson wrote in a follow-up email. "Speed limits, known as prima facie speed limits, on all other state routes are set by an engineering and speed zone survey process in compliance with the California Vehicle Code."

For example, surveyors log the speed of 100 vehicles at a certain location. The speed of at least 85% of drivers is then rounded up or down 5 mph, with engineers taking into account such factors as accident history, he said.

The last speed survey in front of LCAD's main campus was done in January 2011.

"We're here to serve," Richardson said. "Safety is our No. 1 concern. But we have to do what we do in a legal, compliant way."

Flashing warning lights currently warn drivers approaching the college from both directions on Laguna Canyon Road. Blinking lights embedded in the street also flash when a pedestrian pushes a button to cross the road.

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