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|New Level of Safety at Downtown Farmer's Market|
By Ann K. Williams
May 3, 2011 – The downtown Farmer's Market is changing its look as Santa Monica's favorite biweekly scene gets a whole lot safer.
Thanks to a traffic control plan created by Crain and Associates in partnership with the city, a system of nets, barricades and traffic signs should make the kind of tragedy caused by speeding motorist George Weller that killed ten and injured 63 nearly eight years ago at the popular marketplace all but impossible.
“The traffic control plan project has been an excellent collaboration between multiple city departments,” said Farmer's Market Supervisor Laura Avery.
“We are always working on making our fabulous market even better,” Avery said. “This is the latest example.”
Key among the safety improvements are pairs of nets, which resemble tennis nets, stretched across the street at all market entry ways. They're designed to stop a car travelling an average speed within nine feet, Avery said. A nine-foot “clear zone” separates the nets from the market itself.
“The nets are rated for speed of travel, the weight of vehicles” and other variables, and are “designed not to kill the driver,” Crain and Associates Operations Manager Diana Skidmore, who was responsible for the traffic control plan, told the Lookout Monday. “We've gone through every scenario,” she added.
While “we can't prevent everything under the sun, every irresponsible act,” Skidmore said, she's confident that, thanks to thorough and constructive teamwork between her firm and city staff, the plan maximizes public safety at what she calls “one of the biggest treasures in the westside.”
In addition to the nets, a system of barricades and signage adds to the public's safety.
“Road Closed Ahead” and “No Left/Right Turn” signs are placed around the market, up to two blocks away from it, to steer traffic clear of the crowded marketplace, Avery said.
Reflectors mounted on type III barricades – plywood crossbeams on steel frames – give drivers a visual warning that they're approaching an area off-limits to vehicles.
In spite of the new safety features, the market boundaries will not be reduced, and operations should continue as usual, Avery said.
The nets, signage and barricades have to be deployed and knocked down within a matter of hours, said Skidmore.
So the system is being put in place in stages, giving the city a chance to hire and train staff , Avery said.
The entire system should be up and running by next Wednesday's Farmer's Market, said Avery.
For more information about the Santa Monica Farmer's Markets, see www.smgov.net/farmers_market/
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