Leaders' push to improve PCH heightened as new memorial honors Pepperdine students killed

Wednesday, November 15, 2023
Leaders continue push to solve decades-old problem: make PCH safer
Malibu's share of the problem is notoriously dangerous with drivers clocking in at 107 to 112 miles per hour in the past few weeks alone, according to sheriff's deputies.

MALIBU, Calif. (KABC) -- It's been four weeks since a crash killed four Pepperdine students in Malibu, and prosecutors allege the 22-year-old driver was driving up to 100 miles per hour.

While officials say speed is the primary factor in more than a quarter of crashes along Pacific Coast Highway, leaders are trying to change that.

On Tuesday, local and state leaders came together over the demands to fix a decades-old problem: make PCH safer. Malibu's share of the problem is notoriously dangerous with drivers clocking in at 107 to 112 miles per hour in the past few weeks alone, according to sheriff's deputies.

The Oct. 17 crash claimed the lives of Niamh Rolston, 20, Asha Weir, 21, Deslyn Williams, 21, and Peyton Stewart, 21. They were all sorority sisters and seniors at Pepperdine's Seaver College of Liberal Arts.

MORE COVERAGE | PCH crash victims, all sorority sisters, honored during Pepperdine prayer service

A prayer service was held Thursday morning as Pepperdine University mourns the loss of four students who were killed in a crash on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

"This is a hell of a shock to have happen to you while you're having lunch at home with your wife and get a phone call from school saying that your daughter's dead," said Peyton's father, Barry Stewart.

On Tuesday, the Fix PCH Action Team, created by the road safety advocacy organization Streets Are For Everyone, placed four Ghost Tires to honor the students. The memorial is placed at 23661 Pacific Coast Highway.

At the memorial, family members, community members, civic leaders, and members of Fix PCH called for change, sharing their hopes for PCH to become a road where drivers respect the speed limit. State Senator Ben Allen and Assemblymember Jaqui Irwin plan to push for a bill allowing speed cameras in Malibu.

Meanwhile, a representative for CalTrans spoke out during Tuesday's PCH Taskforce Meeting, saying they are looking into both short and long term fixes.

"The team's also been collecting data in the field to assess if there are opportunities for us to further reduce the existing posted speed limit. That effort is ongoing," said Rafael Molina, the Deputy District Director of CalTrans' Division of Traffic Operations.

Previous efforts to implement any kind of change have moved like the tide. A safety study was released in 2015 with 130 recommendations, many of which include adding raised medians, crosswalks, or adjusting turn lanes. One of the recommendations was to look into building a complete sidewalk between Carbon Canyon and Rambla Pacifico, the very stretch of road where the four students were killed. However, only nine have been completed.

So CalTrans' engagement Tuesday was met with optimism - cautious optimism.

"When you're talking about what you will do next , it can kind of make people feel like, 'Oh, it's not going to happen," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath. "I don't want to hear more studies; I want to hear what you're going to do."

CalTrans has committed to a checklist that the public can keep up with - a measurable answer to a tragedy that otherwise has none.

"If the best you can say about reducing the speed limit is that it's hard to say there will be an opportunity to reduce the speed limit, I think you need to try a little harder," said Barry Stewart.

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