The newly designed truck arrester bed at the foot of Kanan Dume Road near the Pacific Coast Highway is two months behind schedule, city officials confirmed this week.
Despite an initial July end date, the city now says the project should be done at the end of September.
The arrester bed, designed to help prevent accidents from runaway trucks that cannot brake at the end of Kanan, has been undergoing its first major overhaul since it was built before Malibu was incorporated in 1991.
In February, the city awarded a contract for the work to Granite Construction, with a projected completion date of July 23. However, the construction firm has not yet completed the job. One of the reasons for delay? New signage hasn’t arrived.
“They were getting some additional signage and there may be some additional things we need to do,” City Manager Jim Thorsen said, adding that the signs are “special-ordered” and may be the cause of the delayed reopening.
Public Works director Bob Brager agreed.
“They order them, but because they’re special signs, they’ll almost be special made,” Brager said.
The new arrester bed, according to Thorsen, was designed to be easier to use than the previous one, with improvements aimed to help panicking truck drivers veer into the gravel and avoid collisions on PCH.
“This one is wider,” Thorsen said, adding, “it does meet federal standards for arrester beds. The old one wasn’t wide enough.”
He added that the bed also changed shape.
“The second thing is, the old arrester bed had a big curve in it. We’ve straightened it out.”
Despite these changes, several Malibu residents have expressed concern that the arrester bed at the bottom of the incline on Kanan is too little, too late.
“What concerns me is that it’s not stopping trucks [from] going down Kanan,” said Malibu resident Christopher Carradine, who has lived on Kanan for 18 years.
“The arrester bed is for drivers that are in a state of mind that they can use it,” Carradine said, worrying that inexperienced truck drivers may not think to steer into the arrester bed.
According to Carradine and others who wrote letters to The Malibu Times, the city and county should really be steering truck drivers away from exiting the Ventura Freeway at Kanan.
“The solution is to stop them at the tunnel,” Carradine said, outlining a plan for truck drivers to be notified at the first tunnel on southbound Kanan and given the opportunity to turn back, or face a stiff penalty.
Thorsen agreed that the arrester bed isn’t necessarily the only solution to the problem.
“Well, there’s always more things that can be done up in the county area,” Thorsen said. “As a city, this is what we can do in our area.”
Carradine countered that the city has the power to pressure county legislators for more work.
“I think it’s the responsibility of this city to safeguard its citizens and the excuse that the county roads department hasn’t been cooperative doesn’t work,” Carradine said, adding, “That’s not an excuse, that’s passing the buck.”
A wider arrester bed has made for narrower lanes, an issue that some residents say makes bike riding on northbound Kanan hazardous.
“Now there is no shoulder or bike lane on northbound Kanan. Anybody see a puzzle here? The project should not be considered complete until current California road standards are followed,” Jonathan Toker wrote in his letter to the editor.
In response, Brager said that work to widen the mouth of the road is ongoing, but first a power pole must be relocated by utilities companies.
“We were actually planning to widen that portion, if you notice that bottleneck there, there is a power pole there,” Brager said, adding that utilities companies have already built a replacement pole.
“We have to wait for the utility companies to relocate the utilities onto the other pole; once they do that, they remove the [old] pole,” Brager said, estimating that the pole has been moved five feet and the road will widen a little less than that.
He also mentioned that a wider shoulder isn’t officially a bike lane.
“Malibu doesn’t have any bike lanes,” Brager stated.