For the past two months, residents of Third and Fourth streets on Coronado Island have been working to address severe traffic issues affecting their neighborhood. Third and Fourth streets, one-way roads administered by CalTrans, experience heavy traffic due to North Island Naval Base commuters. Every weekday morning, tens of thousands of military personnel and civilian workers drive across the San Diego-Coronado Bridge from throughout San Diego County into Coronado. These vehicles are funneled onto the residential corridor of Third Street, where they travel bumper-to-bumper until reaching the base. On weekday afternoons, the same heavy traffic travels outbound along Fourth Street to depart the base. This traffic volume has decreased the quality of life and value of real property for Third and Fourth streets residents. Preferential treatment of Orange Ave., lack of traffic enforcement by local police, and unsafe pedestrian crossings exacerbate the problems.
The Coronado Transportation Commission (CTC) workshop, held in December 2013, provided frustrated Third and Fourth streets residents with a forum to express concerns. Three significant issues were identified at the meeting. First, the CTC’s survey results revealed that bridge-side residents, east of Orange Ave., and base-side residents, west of Orange Ave., perceive the traffic issues differently. Second, it appears that traffic volume will not decrease, but it may be better controlled. Third, participants discussed the concept of Traffic Calming, an international movement to reclaim neighborhoods and put people first.
“Third and Fourth Streets Planning Community” Facebook page was launched soon thereafter. The page featured posts that discussed Traffic Calming ideas such as safe crossings for pedestrians, creative traffic slowing methods, reclaiming alleyways for gardens and pedestrian-friendly parkways. The page invited community members to share ideas and suggestions.
During CTC’s monthly meeting in January 2014, a Third Street resident described how the city could use available transportation funds to address many of the traffic issues by realizing the concept of an “Avenue of Heroes.” The improvements associated with the Avenue of Heroes would include statues dedicated to military individuals and groups, a military walk of fame, incorporation of traffic calming concepts, such as medians, and themed green areas. She noted that the Third and Fourth streets loop has both national and local significance. The route begins at the San Diego-Coronado Bridge entrance in Logan Heights, named for Civil War general Logan, who founded Memorial Day. The route ends at North Island Naval Base. Not only do 75,000 service people travel this route daily, but it is also traversed by United States presidents and dignitaries, as well as parents, spouses and children seeing their loved ones off for deployment.
The success of the Facebook page and the favorable response to the concept of the Avenue of Heroes inspired concerned Coronado residents to organize the Third and Fourth Streets Planning Community (TAF). TAF held its first meeting on January 25, 2014 in which residents exchanged ideas and further discussed the issues raised at the CTC workshop and on the Facebook page. To clarify the discussion of traffic issues, TAF designated four distinct neighborhoods or quadrants. Each quadrant experiences unique traffic patterns. For instance, Quadrant 1, bridge-side Third St., has early morning traffic to two bases, North Island and the Amphibious Base, as well as ongoing commuter and tourist traffic. Quadrant 2, base-side Third St., has weekday early morning gridlock, because the base cannot efficiently process three lanes of cars. Quadrant 3, base-side Fourth Street has weekday afternoon gridlock because of cross town traffic and the long stoplight at the Orange Ave. intersection. Quadrant 4, bridge-side Fourth St., has residential morning commuters and accelerating bridge-bound traffic from all parts of Coronado.
TAF is examining short term and long-term remedies. Door–to-door surveys conducted in each of the four quadrants will assess specific concerns and invite proposed solutions. TAF contends that neglecting the issues associated with this historically significant corridor is not longer feasible and that it is time to formally honor military personnel who traverse Third and Fourth streets, enhance property values through beautification, and increase pedestrian and vehicular safety.
For TAF, the issues associated with Third and Fourth streets are not just about urban traffic problems, but about national pride and memory. Third and Fourth streets residents regularly watch history in the making. When the presidential motorcade drives down Third and Fourth streets, many neighborhood families post signs inviting those in the motorcade for coffee. Anxious loved ones ready to make tearful goodbyes are carried north towards the base via Third Street. Both jubilant homecomings and solemn funerals move south away from the base via Fourth St. When the Coronado community learned that a Navy SEAL's transport to his final resting place was to occur, residents communicated the news with phone calls and texts, then raised American flags in front of their homes along Fourth St. Teachers brought their students to Fourth St. to honor the fallen soldier. As the procession advanced towards the foot of the bridge, just beyond the tollbooth in the center divide, one could see a lone Navy SEAL standing in salute.
Immediately after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the U.S. Navy summoned North Island military personnel to the base. Military traffic lined Third St. for eight hours. Vehicles barely moved. Residents who could observe the traffic jam from their living room windows brought food and drinks to the cars of personnel waiting to enter the base. Some residents even moved televisions onto the sidewalks so that drivers could stay informed about the events unfolding in New York City. Firefighters passed the boot from vehicle to vehicle, seeking donations. And, those drivers on Third Street waiting to enter the base gave generously.
The improvements associated with the Avenue of Heroes would address many of the problems created by Third and Fourth streets traffic. But, more importantly, it would formally honor the precious cargo it carries to and from the North Island base—our presidents, our servicemen and women, and those who care about them. No one knows the identity of the lone Navy SEAL who stood saluting by the bridge. Some say he stood there for three hours awaiting his fallen friend. A statue of that lone SEAL would be a moving and symbolic image along the Avenue of Heroes.
Source: Toni McGowan & Shoshana Lazik-Jones, Third and Fourth Streets Planning Community
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