Section of Mulholland Highway, closed since the Woolsey Fire, will reopen in 2024
But can “The Snake” shed its dangerous reputation?
Source of this article, the Los Angeles Times, August 13, 2023
Los Angeles County officials are getting ready to let “the Snake” out of its cage — with some extra safety precautions in place.
The 2.4-mile stretch of Mulholland Highway, named for its resemblance to the coiling reptiles, winds through the Santa Monica Mountains roughly between Kanan Road and Sierra Creek Road.
Its curves and hairpin turns were long favored by motorcyclists and street racers, but the stretch of road was deemed a high-collision corridor by the county following multiple fatal crashes. It has been closed to drivers since 2019.
With the roadway on track to reopen next year, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved a motion Tuesday to conduct a 180-day safety study as part of its Vision Zero traffic improvement plan.
“Mulholland Highway is a historic scenic roadway beloved by the local community and visitors alike,” Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, whose district contains the roadway, said in a statement. “While beautiful, it can also be dangerous — even lethal — when people choose to race or stage photo opportunities. In Los Angeles County, we have a Vision Zero goal to eliminate roadway fatalities, and Mulholland Highway is primed for this work.”
Mark Pestrella, the county’s director of public works, said during Tuesday’s meeting that “the Snake” ranked as the 79th worst out of 200 L.A. County high-collision corridors from 2013 to 2017, according to Vision Zero data.
“The problem is speed in this, in a roadway that is not built to go at the speeds that people do travel it frequently,” he said. “It’s scary how fast people will travel on this, on motorcycles as well as vehicles, and we have seen some horrific accidents due to that.”
Among the safety enhancements made to “the Snake” earlier this year are center lane rumble strips, center lane pavement markers, speed reduction pavement markings, curve advisories and signage, and 6-inch edge line striping, which makes it uncomfortable to go faster, according to Pestrella.
For the first six months after “the Snake” reopens, public works staff will evaluate whether such measures effectively boost roadway safety. Should the measures prove to reduce traffic collisions, county officials could then implement them in other high-collision corridors.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol will assist by providing enforcement.
“The Snake” was damaged in the 2018 Woolsey fire, during which high-temperature flames fried pavement, melted guardrails and destroyed a bridge. Heavy rains in early 2019 further marred the highway, leading officials to close it between Lower Brewster Road and Seminole Drive.
The street reopened for pedestrians and cyclists in April 2020, but has remained closed to motorists.