PALMDALE — Despite opposition from Leona Valley residents who said it was unnecessary, the Palmdale City Council on Tuesday narrowly agreed to install a three-way stop at the intersection of Godde Hill Road and Elizabeth Lake Road.
The multi-way stop passed on a 3-2 vote, with Council members Richard Loa and Austin Bishop dissenting.
The intersection currently has only a one-way stop, for southbound traffic on Godde Hill Road.
City officials said adding the stop signs is a matter of liability, given studies that have shown the multi-way stop is justified.
Should the city not follow through with the recommendation, it could be held liable in the case of traffic accidents at the intersection.
“The whole idea behind this is to prevent accidents, and if you wait for one where somebody gets killed in the face of three studies that says one’s necessary … that’s a problem,” City Attorney Matthew Ditzhazy said.
The Council originally considered the three-way stop at its August meeting, after a Los Angeles County draft study found it justified.
At that meeting, representatives of the Leona Valley Town Council asked the city to delay its decision on the intersection in order to gather input from the Town Council.
Since that time, officials determined the intersection is solely in Palmdale’s jurisdiction, not partially in Los Angeles County’s, and the city completed a second traffic study and determined the three-way stop was justified.
The main issue is the visibility at the intersection, which justifies the multi-way stop, Palmdale City Engineer Bill Padilla said.
He noted Los Angeles County had approved the additional stop signs at that intersection in 2003, but the work was never completed.
Padilla said the intersection has a low accident rate, with two in 2016 to 2017 and one last year. None of these were fatal accidents.
The Town Council, in a letter dated Oct. 29, contested the validity of the studies and the effectiveness of the three-way stop in reducing accidents in opposing the installation.
“We reviewed the reports and we believe they’re flawed,” Leona Valley Town Council President Michael Publicker said.
He said the study did not consider the increased potential for accidents caused by drivers not prepared for the sudden stop in traffic at the intersection.
“The whole purpose of this is to lower the city’s risk. I don’t believe you’ve done that,” Leona Valley resident William Elliott said.
“You really need to do a risk assessment.”
The Town Council did not request a traffic study for the Godde Hill Road intersection, but for the intersection at 75th Street West, which is a more problematic site, Publicker said.
The city is finishing design work for a remedy at that intersection as a separate project, Padilla said.
“I think our report was rather scant” in addressing the Town Council’s concerns, Councilmember Richard Loa said. “Leona Valley raises certain specific issues and I think they ought to be addressed, in writing, so that we can consider them.”
He asked to continue the matter until those concerns were adequately addressed.
“It seems like this is a solution in search of a problem,” Loa said. “I think that there ought to be consideration given to our neighbors.”
Given the low rate of accidents, Mayor Pro Tem Austin Bishop agreed that the matter should have further study.
“I think it needs a closer look,” he said.
Padilla said the Town Council questioned every single detail of the study, but “in the end, the professional judgment from us … is to install the three-way stop.”
“My responsibility at the end of the day is to the 160,000 residents of the city and to the families of the people that have got to drive by there,” Mayor Steve Hofbauer said.
Councilmember Laura Bettencourt asked for assurance that steps will be taken to ensure drivers are aware of the new stops.
A flashing beacon will be installed at the intersection to alert drivers to the stop on Elizabeth Lake Road, and there will be signage warning of the stop ahead at quite a distance, Padilla said.
Additionally, signs with flags well in advance of the intersection will be used initially to alert drivers to the change.