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Pacific Coast Highway could get more lanes, less parking

October 28, 1999

Eron Ben-Yehuda

HUNTINGTON BEACH -- With cars already zooming down Pacific Coast Highway,

a city plan to add more lanes to the busy thoroughfare is driving some

nearby residents nuts.

"It's going to be a speedway," said Rhonda Jones Pisani.

Not only will driving the highway become more harried, but Pisani is

concerned it will become even more dangerous for beach-goers who jaywalk

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across the highway. A number of pedestrians have been struck -- even

killed -- by passing cars over the years.

"[It] will create a slaughter alley," said Jack Wenzel said.

The city proposal is currently in the planning stages, and no date has

been scheduled for the project to begin.

The plan would add a car lane and a bike lane in each direction between

Beach Boulevard and Goldenwest Street, city engineer Bob Eichblatt said.

He stresses that, contrary to popular belief, the highway would not be

widened.

"There's just no room to widen without spending gazillions of dollars,"

he said.

Instead, at a cost of about half a million dollars, the city will narrow

the median island by several feet and the existing car lanes by a few

inches, he said. About 460 parking spaces on either side of the road will

have to go, too, he said.

He said adding lanes will not increase traffic numbers or speed. Traffic

signals are set to keep the average speed of cars at about 33 mph, he

said.

"This is just to handle the traffic that's already there," he said.

Gil Schauer, who lives along the highway, isn't so sure of that. She

estimates many cars zip by at 40 to 50 mph.

The work shouldn't take more than four months, but the city can't begin

until a location is found to replace the parking spaces, Eichblatt said.

The state Coastal Commission requires a one-for-one swap.

Those living along the highway may oppose the plan, but adding lanes will

ease traffic congestion, making Downtown a more attractive place to

visit, he said.

"It would be good for business," said Jason Bean, manager at Jack's

Surfboards in Downtown.

Although he sympathizes with the concerns of nearby residents, Bean said

the city must pay a price for economic growth.

"You have to give a little to get a little," he said.

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