The daily slog through Topanga Canyon for the commuter and local alike is getting to be quite the headache. On a regular basis, the average time to traverse the Canyon from Topanga Canyon Blvd and Mulholland to Topanga Canyon Blvd and Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is forty five minutes to an hour. And then there’s the commute on PCH either direction. Whether you head toward Santa Monica or Malibu, traffic continues to be a headache. One sees taillights as far as the eye can see in the Canyon and all the way down PCH both directions. Ten years ago, the Canyon commute was not this bad. PCH was still a bit of a drag to drive to work or for recreation, but not like today.
By Rick Paulas
“Our traffic management team is able to regularly monitor traffic flow,” said Tim Weisberg, Public Information Officer for California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), in an interview. “In cases of high congestion, we can evaluate means to ease traffic flow including working with partner agencies, like the city and county, as well as taking in community input.”
“The estimated $13.7 million project involves installing adaptive signal control systems, traffic loops and sensors and developing timing plans,” said Weisberg.
PCH is a State highway and is therefore controlled and maintained by Caltrans. The City of Malibu nor does the Township of Topanga have control over the operation or maintenance of PCH. It is the main thoroughfare for Malibu for a distance of approximately 21 miles, and the manner in which drivers get to Topanga Canyon from the coast. PCH serves many business and gives residents access to their homes and beachgoers and locals alike access to ocean fun.
These two roads, Topanga Canyon Blvd and PCH, have an economy between them. If the light at the bottom of Topanga Canyon Blvd and PCH stays green for traffic on PCH too long, then traffic on the Blvd gets snarled. If the light stays green too long for the Blvd traffic, then the cars on PCH become a bottleneck that backs up for miles in both directions. The economics of these lights is governed by Caltrans.
“Caltrans is doing a traffic analysis on the Topanga Canyon Boulevard and State Route 1 (PCH) signal to determine proper traffic timing,” said Weisberg. “We are also in the process of planning a signal system improvement project along PCH that includes the Topanga Canyon Blvd. signal. The estimated $13.7 million project involves installing adaptive signal control systems, traffic loops and sensors and developing timing plans. This is from Topanga Canyon Blvd. to just past John Tyler Drive, below Pepperdine. The goal is to ease traffic congestion and provide an efficient transportation corridor for drivers along PCH that travel through Malibu. The construction phase is estimated to start in Fall 2022.”
(VIDEO time lapse: Topanga Canyon Blvd Pine Tree Circle Light)
Cars and motorcyclists on Topanga Canyon Blvd are currently being stopped by two traffic light patterns. One is the light at Topanga Canyon Blvd and PCH. The other is at Topanga Canyon Blvd and Pine Tree Circle in Topanga. These two lights cause a traffic backup that makes the Canyon commuter and local’s drive take an hour down to the bottom of the Canyon hill.
“The City of Malibu conducted a PCH Traffic Study in 2015 that focused on safety, but did include traffic counts at all of the intersections on PCH, including Topanga and PCH,” said Malibu CIty Manager Reva Feldman.
This 2015 study found commuters use the two roads to get to and from work and for recreational purposes and this particular intersection, PCH and Topanga Canyon Blvd., has the most traffic.
“During the peak hours, weekdays a.m. and p.m., and weekend midday, the intersection of Topanga Canyon Boulevard and PCH has the highest volume throughout the study corridor,” concluded the study.
There were several intersections studied for traffic volume by the National Data & Surveying Services (NDS) in this study including but not limited to PCH and the following streets: Decker Canyon Road, Kanan Dume, Malibu Canyon Road, Cross Creek, Rambla Pacifico and Topanga Canyon Blvd.