By Ted AYALA
The signs went up earlier this week at the corner of Honolulu and Ocean View. The bête noire of many Montrose residents and businesses, the infamous diagonal crosswalk that had been erected at that aforementioned intersection, would be painted over by this Monday.
The crosswalk sprang up in the heart of the Montrose Shopping Park earlier this year, surprising the surrounding community, not least because Glendale’s Dept. of Public Works failed to engage in any community outreach for the project. The collective reaction was, to say the least, not positive.
“It was a solution in search of a problem,” said Dale Dawson, owner of Mountain Rose Gifts. “The city’s heart was in the right place. But this was an unnecessary plan from the get-go. The benefits never outweighed the problems.”
Among the problems were traffic tie-ups that extended as far west as Wickham Way, caused by the wait for the signals at the crosswalk to turn.
Some proponents of the crosswalk had argued that the traffic calming it would create would allow for motorists to better pay attention to the businesses. But according to the crosswalk’s opponents, that wasn’t necessarily the case.
“To be honest, yes, [motorists] were forced to stop for a long time waiting for the lights,” Steve Pierce said of the crossing. “But they weren’t looking at the shopping park. They were just sitting in their cars frustrated they couldn’t get through in a timely way. The amount of time drivers and pedestrians had to wait was unmanageable.”
Other benefits, its supporters maintained, was that the crossing improved pedestrian safety. But for GiGi Garcia, the Montrose Shopping Park Association’s (MSPA) vice president and owner of It Takes a Village along Honolulu, the crosswalk added to those problems by its confusing set-up. She recalled being nearly hit by a car that was attempting to turn right at the intersection.
“We got so many complaints about it,” explained Garcia. “[The MSPA] is all for pedestrian safety. That’s a priority for us. But this crosswalk didn’t answer those concerns at all.”
Traffic problems, she continued, were made worse by the crosswalk, not only by slowing traffic along Honolulu, but also by diverting traffic to residential streets ill equipped to handle all the extra cars looking to circumvent Montrose’s main thoroughfare.
“We were losing customers because of this,” Dawson said. “I heard from several people that they would never drive through the shopping park again. The stress from the traffic unfortunately caused some road rage.”
At a meeting earlier this year, City Manager Scott Ochoa was very apologetic to Montrose over how the city handled the incident. He assured concerned members of the community that in the future the city would be much more diligent in its public outreach.
“It is very unfortunate how things worked out,” Councilmember Paula Devine said of the lack of outreach over the crosswalk. “Glendale cares a lot about Montrose and so do I. We wanted to help make a good change for the area.”
Devine had talked about her initial support for the project. The intersection of Honolulu and Ocean View had been listed as one of the most dangerous in Glendale, according to city staff. She had felt that the crosswalk would go to great lengths to improve the area and said that she wasn’t “totally convinced” by the project’s detractors.
“I visited the area and saw the crossing working beautifully,” she said. “Of course, I can’t be there 24/7. But when I observed it during peak hours it worked very well.”
Among city staff, and even some Montrose residents, there was talk of a possibility of implementing the diagonal crosswalk again, though this time being careful to seek the input of the community.
Pierce said he would welcome the city’s working closely with the community on future projects. But for now he’s glad to see the crosswalk removed.
“It was just so detrimental and confusing for the shopping park,” he said. “I’m sure a lot of people are going to be happy to see this gone.”
But Councilmember Devine hoped that in the future some of the crosswalk’s opponents will come to see the virtues of the project and perhaps be persuaded to soften their stance.
“Change can be difficult for many people. It takes time,” she said. “But if we try and work together, we can share the good that it can bring.”