By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu English Editor-in-Chief
Drivers on Third Street were treated to a brief colorful parade of city officials and seniors carrying balloons at a celebration dedicating a new traffic signal and crosswalk at Third Street and Omar Avenue in Little Tokyo on March 9.
As traffic officers stopped the flow of cars and trucks, seniors savored a moment that was years in the making.
“Today we finally unveil this long-time coming crosswalk,” stated Councilmember Jose Huizar, speaking in front of Little Tokyo Towers.
The new crosswalk will make it safer for the residents of Little Tokyo Towers to visit their doctors and other services in the Little Tokyo Professional Building situated across the busy street.
“Seventeen years ago we asked for a signal and finally this day has come,” said Masami Shinichi, a Tokyo Towers resident, speaking in Japanese. “I’m really happy and really appreciative.”
James Okazaki, a former official at the L.A. Department of Transportation and a member of the Little Tokyo Community Council, has pushed the city for years on the project and he noted that the signal is the first to be placed in Little Tokyo in 30 years.
Rev. Peter Hata of Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple and Naomi Kurata, owner of the Professional Building, also joined in the festivities.
The crosswalk was unveiled as the city kicked off its Vision Zero Action Plan, which seeks to reduce pedestrian fatalities to zero by 2025. Older adults are particularly at risk and make up a disproportionate share of pedestrian traffic deaths.
On its website the LA DOT recommends that pedestrians be cautious when entering a crosswalk and look “left, right, left” before entering the roadway. At night and early morning, LA DOT suggests wearing bright colors or reflective materials.
“A signal light can maintain a sense of order. Without the signal the danger is real to our seniors,” said Chris Komai, LTCC board chair.