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Replacing Crosswalks Costly, Transportation Officials Warn

By Olin Ericksen
staff Writer

January 31 -- Santa Monica will have to shell out about $800,000 to bring its entire system of out-of-order flashing crosswalks back online.

Thirteen of the city’s 15 "in-pavement" flashing crosswalks -- which City officials envisioned as a cheap way to "enhance" safety without significantly slowing traffic -- are not working, including one which was the site of a pedestrian fatality last week. (see story)

But if the City Council wants the crosswalks to work properly, the City will not only have to pay for it, but a whole new way of installing the system will need to be devised, transportation officials said Tuesday

"Their design isn't really as durable as some other things we have in the streets," said Lucy Dyke, the City’s transportation manager. "I think we are looking at about $800,000 to replace them all with a system that we hope will be more reliable."

The City is currently searching for a third product line of in-pavement flashers. Two systems -- the Lightguard and Smartstud systems -- have both failed on Santa Monica's heavily traveled east-west arteries, because of how they settle in the asphalt, Dyke said. (see stor

Now, the City will take on the job of installing the flashers in concrete, which is more stable than asphalt, significantly increasing the costs of the entire system, Dyke said.

"We are going to not only replace the vendors, but the whole installation practice," she said. "One of the main ways they sold these things, which was not Santa Monica's main goal in getting them, was that they were cheaper."

The increase in cost could mean that the City must now enter a bidding process for the new supply, even as traffic officials await temporary replacement flashers that have already been ordered.

There is no timeline on when that bidding process will start or when City officials will receive the temporary parts, Dyke said.

The majority of flashing crosswalk systems -- which are installed on Pico, Santa Monica and Ocean Park boulevards, as well as one on Montana Avenue -- were Smartstud Systems sold by Econolite.

The company supplies several traffic-related supplies to Santa Monica, including Smartstud systems, a product the company discontinued last October, if not sooner, according to Dyke.

"I think it was because they’re unreliable," she said.

Econolite's other products have worked well for the City, she said, and Santa Monica continues to hold a contract with the company.

When Econolite stopped selling the product, Santa Monica couldn't just find a replacement, Dyke said.

"They're not kind of off-the-shelf items and widely available," she said.

Dyke said her staff is following council direction and believes they will eventually hit upon a good formula to make the crosswalks work properly.

"This is the third product we'll be considering," she said.

Dyke said she disagrees with critics who worry that the flashers imbedded along the crosswalks give pedestrians a false sense of security.

"This has been a question about crosswalks in general," she said. "It really depends on the location of the crosswalk.

“The City hired a whole lot of people to decide where they should go to make it easier for people to cross without introducing any additional risk for pedestrians."



"We are going to not only replace the vendors, but the whole installation practice." Lucy Dyke


"They're not kind of off-the-shelf items and widely available."


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