Accident Reignites Duane St ‘Cut-Through’ Controversy

Cars piling up on steep, residential Duane Street.

Cars piling up on steep, residential Duane Street.

SILVER LAKE—During recent heavy rains, a flatbed truck driving on Duane Street lost control and careened down the street’s steep hill, narrowly missing pedestrians, cars and a utility pole before it slid to a stop in the front yard of an apartment complex on the corner of Silver Lake Boulevard.

The incident occurred January 20th. There was no loss of life or property except for the divots and ruined lawn of the apartment complex.

But it has reignited concerns over a traffic issue that has plagued residents who have lived on this tiny, steep street for almost 20 years.

“The primary issue is that we are essentially the Silver Lake Boulevard off ramp from Highway 2,” said Sandy Kaye, who lives on Duane and has been begging the city to fix the problem since shortly after she moved there in the late 1990s.

Highway 2, or the “Glendale Freeway,” abruptly ends a few blocks from Kaye’s house.

The freeway technically terminates onto Glendale Boulevard. But motorists have found ways to forgo that heavily congested street and instead opt for shortcuts into the freeway’s adjacent residential neighborhood.

“I think a lot of the traffic is a cut-through, a quick way to get off [Highway 2] and over to Silver Lake or Hollywood,” said Robert Elk, another resident who also has lived on Duane since the 1990s.

Additionally, Duane is the only through street on Silver Lake Boulevard for over a mile between the Silver Lake Meadow and Sunset Boulevard. Often during rush hour, cars unable to break through traffic to make a left onto Silver Lake from the stop sign at Armstrong Avenue, will instead make a right and use Duane as a cut through to Glendale Boulevard.

Both Kaye and Elk said the cut-through traffic creates public safety and quality of life issues for residents and daily car congestion that brings with it loud music, engine vibrations and oppressive exhaust fumes.

The street’s steep hill is also of concern for locals.

According to Kaye, she has been involved in two serious car accidents on the street over the years.

One occurred in the late 1990s when a car lost control on the hill and smashed into the side of her house. And then again in the mid 2000s, when a car lost control at the top of the hill and careened through multiple neighbors’ yards before smashing into Kaye’s family car, which was parked in her driveway.

Together, she said, the incidents caused over $15,000 in property damage, and have required her to install waist-high concrete pylons on her property’s fence line in to protect her from future accidents.

Additionally, the truck that lost control on the street in January was weighted down with a storage unit that was being delivered to Kaye.

“This is a 30% grade street,” she said. “It is not built or maintained for this traffic. It is a dangerous situation.”

When Los Angeles went on a freeway-building bonanza in the 1950s, planners originally intended the Glendale Freeway to run through Silver Lake and Echo Park to connect with the 101 (Hollywood) Freeway.

However, due to neighborhood opposition, the project was scuttled after construction began. As a result, the Glendale Freeway now abruptly terminates just a few blocks from Kaye’s home.

Kaye said she is not advocating for the completion of the originally planned freeway to fix the Duane Street cut through issue. However, she and others said they would like some sort of solution.

In the late 1990s, some thought a fix was imminent when local transportation officials began working to address the traffic and quality of life problems created by the abrupt end of the highway.

Over the next decade, countless community meetings were held. Plans were created and revised, over and over again.

According to Metro’s website, the project remains in progress. However, residents say that Duane Street was forgotten about long ago when a project to redesign the highway’s offramps lost its funding.

While some fixes happened, like adding sound walls, residents say they were left to work with their city councilmember on the cut-through traffic issue.

The area’s councilmember at the time was now Mayor Eric Garcetti, who after learning of the problem, actively worked to try and fix it, according to Kaye.

He met with residents and temporary stopped cars from accessing one of the residential streets—Waterloo Street—off the freeway with a temporary barrier. But instead of encouraging cars to stay out of the neighborhood, the barrier simply diverted them to other side streets, which angered residents in other parts of the neighborhood and eventually led to the barrier’s removal.

Eventually, Garcetti worked to cut down the desirability of using Duane Street as means to get to Silver Lake Boulevard. He installed no left turn signs during rush hour, which were promptly ignored.

While LAPD did regularly ticket at the site in the years following the signs’ initial installation, enforcement has become lax in recent years.

On a recent weekday during rush hour, roughly 2/3 of cars at the site illegally turned left. Area residents are now trying to work with Garcetti’s successor, Los Angeles Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.

But according to O’Farrell, the issue is all about GPS and commuter apps like Waze.

“We are facing challenges, not only in our area but citywide, with the new ‘way finding’ apps that are sending motorists all over the place,” wrote O’Farrell’s policy director Christine Peters in an email to residents following another accident on January 26.

But area residents say the problem began long before smartphones.

“This has been going on way before Waze,” said Kaye.

O’Farrell has only said he continues to look for solutions.

“We understand the frustration of constituents dealing with this additional traffic in the area, and we asked [city transportation officials] to look into solutions,” said Tony Arranaga, O’Farrell’s spokesperson. “We encourage residents to stay engaged with the [Dept. of Transportation] and our office on this issue. As soon as we have an update, we will be sure to share it with constituents.”

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