Friday, 27 May 2022

Olympic Drive and Highway 53 intersection to get stop signs, then a signal

LAKEPORT – A Caltrans representative told local officials on Wednesday that the agency is working on implementing new safety measures at the intersection of Highway 53 and Olympic Drive in order to reduce the number of collisions occurring there.

The Lake County City/Area Planning Council (APC) hosted the discussion at its regular meeting Wednesday.

The council's members include Lakeport Mayor Jim Irwin, Lakeport City Councilman Ron Bertsch, Clearlake Mayor Judy Thein, Clearlake City Councilman Chuck Leonard, Jeff Smith and Jim Comstock of the Board of Supervisors, and members-at-large Ed Robey and Marsha Wharff.

Caltrans District 1 Traffic Safety Chief Ralph Martinelli told the APC that stop signs should be installed at the intersection within the next three to four weeks.

Diagrams of the plan also include a yield sign that will be added in the southbound turn lane onto Olympic Drive, leading into the city.

Thein referred to Clearlake Police statistics that show there have been 27 collisions and two fatalities in the intersection between Dec. 1, 2006, and Feb. 1, 2010.

Martinelli's written report to the council had additional collision statistics for the intersection: from Jan. 1, 2004, through Dec. 31, 2008, there were 20 collisions in the intersection, three of which involved fatalities. Eight of those involved injuries.

Martinelli's report noted that 16 of those 20 collisions were sideswipes or broadsides that were associated with left turn movements.

Highway 53 has an average daily traffic count of 8,100, while Caltrans an average daily traffic count of 1,200 on Olympic Drive.

Several months ago, the council agreed that a safety project – including a proposed traffic signal – should be fast-tracked, Thein said.

But in November, Caltrans informed the APC that the project wouldn't be completed until 2012, which Thein said isn't soon enough.

Thein brought pictures of recent crashes at the site, and questioned how many more lives would be lost if the improvements take too long.

“I just don't feel that we can afford to wait any longer on this,” she said.

Martinelli told the APC, “This intersection has been on our radar screen for several years.”

Previous safety improvements to the intersection included relocating the stop sign and the stop limit line on Olympic, and adding “intersection ahead” symbol signs and “cross traffic does not stop sign” on Olympic, completed in June 2003.

In November 2004, Caltrans completed additional improvements including extending the northbound Highway 53 turn pocket, creating a pocket for eastbound Olympic Drive motorists turning left onto northbound Highway 53 and installation of a flashing beacon on the “cross traffic ahead” sign for both of Highway 53's lanes.

Martinelli told the APC that Caltrans initiated an investigation on the intersection, and they're moving forward with the signal project combined with a highway rehabilitation project along a portion of Highway 53.

“We were able to accelerate the signal project by merging the two,” he said, which resulted in a 12- to 15-month reduction in the time for completion.

He said they have empathy for the suffering and injury that have resulted from the crashes at the site, and so while the full safety and signalization project is moving forward, Martinelli said Caltrans is proposing to install stop signs.

Martinelli said the stop signs will prevent the most serious types of injury that have occurred at the intersection.

Thein asked why the safety project was projected for completion in 2012.

Martinelli said there is some earthwork that needs to be done to facilitate road widening as part of the project, and that area is particularly challenging for earthwork because of a steep embankment. To do the widening will take some “significant geotechnical considerations,” Martinelli added.

While the projections are for the project to be done in the spring or summer of 2012, Martinelli said completion is actually more likely to occur in 2013.

In the meantime, the stop signs will be installed by Caltrans maintenance staff, he said.

Thein asked why the highway rehabilitation and the signalization projects needed to go together. Martinelli replied that they had to make modifications in that order otherwise, “We could actually make the situation worse.”

In addition to the stop signs, Martinelli said other signs advising drivers of the stop signs ahead as well as rumble strips will be installed. They plan to ask the Clearlake Police Department to be part of transitioning to the stop signs.

Smith thanked Thein for bringing the issue forward, and said he was glad they were taking the step.

He suggested that the stop signs will help transition drivers to a stop light.

Tobie Edmonds, who was seriously injured in a crash at the intersection on Jan. 11, showed the council pictures of the crash and recounted his story.

He said a woman in an SUV who was in the northbound Highway 53 turn lane leading to turn into the city pulled out in front of him with only 15 feet between them. Edmonds, who works in public safety, said he's done defensive driving, said that still didn't help him avoid the crash.

Edmonds told the council that he thinks it's time something is done about the intersection to make it safer.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

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