The number of collisions reported to the LAPD’s Valley Traffic Division fluctuated between 15,560 and 17,830 from 2000-06. Police said the area’s relatively wide streets – many with synchronized traffic signals – have become a popular alternative for motorists trying to travel from one side of the Valley to the other. “There are more people using our streets as shortcuts or alternatives to the freeways because freeways are congested at certain times of the day,” said Bill Bustos, who oversees Valley Traffic’s detectives. Bustos said the number of drivers searching for alternatives largely speaks to the number of cars traveling local roadways. The Valley’s population last year was estimated at more than 1.8 million, up from 1.7 million in 2000, said the San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center. Although the demand for many of these residents to get from the Valley to metropolitan Los Angeles for work has not changed over time, what’s different now is the route people are choosing to get there. NORTHRIDGE – Running out for a quick lunch during her break from work at Northridge Fashion Center, Marilene Bueno spent nearly an hour stuck in traffic around the mall and narrowly avoided two collisions. A booming population and efforts by frustrated commuters to avoid congested freeways are putting more motorists on the San Fernando Valley’s surface streets, where the intersections around shopping centers and strip malls have become magnets for collisions. Fifty-two crashes were reported last year at Nordhoff Street and Tampa Avenue, making it the most accident-prone intersection, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. “It doesn’t surprise me,” said Bueno, 42, of Monrovia. “Everyone is in a hurry. No one lets you out on the road.” Once a straight freeway ride, the commute to work is more frequently replaced in favor of the twisting, turning canyon roads where drivers hope they’ll find less traffic. But by 8 a.m. on most mornings, Beverly Glen and Laurel Canyon boulevards are virtual parking lots. Not surprising, Ventura and Laurel Canyon boulevards rank as the No. 2 hot spot for trouble in the Valley, with 49 reported crashes last year. Pointing to a parking meter that was hit by a car and now leans to its side next to Laurel Canyon Newsstand, employee Jonathan Montoya sees cars snake through the clogged intersection all day. He’s especially annoyed on Sundays, when impatient drivers blare their horns at families leisurely crossing the street to patronize the weekly farmers’ market. “I think everybody wants to kill somebody,” said the North Hollywood man, who was once knocked off his bike by a car. “It’s a dangerous weapon, a car.” Also contributing to the congestion are motorists commuting to downtown Los Angeles from suburban Palmdale, Santa Clarita and Simi Valley, said Daniel Blake, director of the San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center. “We’ve had (traffic) volumes increasing without freeways expanding,” Blake said. In fact, collisions have increased by about 21 percent during the past six years on freeways that cross the Valley, according to the California Highway Patrol. Last year, CHP officers took reports on 5,887 crashes on Valley freeways. The most dangerous, officials said, is the stretch of the Ventura Freeway between Woodman and White Oak avenues, where 888 crashes were reported last year. CHP spokesman Leland Tang attributed the high number of crashes there to the proximity of the 101-405 Freeway interchange – considered among the busiest of the nation’s thoroughfares. “It only takes one crash on the freeway to stop traffic,” said Valley Traffic Sgt. Ed Waschak. “And it doesn’t even have to be on your side of the freeway.” David Schrank, co-author of the annual Urban Mobility Report from the Texas Transportation Institute, said urban sprawl contributes to the traffic problem. “We now commute suburb to suburb on roads that weren’t designed to carry huge amounts of traffic,” Schrank said. “That’s more and more of an occurrence across the county in cities of all sizes.” Government leaders say they are working to address the problem, funding traffic-light synchronization projects to keep traffic moving, along with speed humps and red-light cameras to keep it from moving too quickly. In addition, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is pursuing transit-oriented developments, where residents rely on subways and buses instead of cars. Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, who heads the council’s Transportation Committee, said the city has to look at the impact of traffic differently than in the past. She said traffic and planning departments should work together instead of in isolation when considering the new developments and has introduced a motion to the city requiring it. “I think L.A. is having to decide how we’re going to control our own destiny,” Greuel said. “We’re at a crossroads as to how we make these decisions.” [email protected] (818)713-3746 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!