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Danger a given on Coronado's Avenue of Heroes

Ironic that the town's Third and Fourth streets memorialize fallen heroes

After coming off the Coronado bridge — speed limit 50 — most drivers don't slow to the posted 25 mph on Fourth Street.
After coming off the Coronado bridge — speed limit 50 — most drivers don't slow to the posted 25 mph on Fourth Street.

A private funeral on May 13 for Charles Keating, a Navy SEAL killed in combat in Iraq last week, was followed by a procession of vehicles along Coronado’s Avenue of Heroes.

That route, SR-282, is not only a national defense highway; it’s also a pair of local streets where residents have struggled to create safety and a neighborhood feel.

The Third and Fourth streets corridor between bridge and base sees more daily traffic than any highway in the county that isn’t a freeway. The city has tackled it with studies and proposals, commissions, votes, and public meetings — for decades.

In the past three years, on the worst stretch near the bridge, crashes with bikes and pedestrians have left two teens with brain injuries and killed an elderly man who tried to cross Fourth Street. Here the road is SR-75, which turns into SR-282 after crossing Orange Avenue several blocks later.

Fixing traffic while honoring the military route may seem like clashing goals. But residents of 282, the quieter end, hope to be a model for the entire corridor.

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It was another fallen SEAL who passed through Toni McGowan’s Third Street neighborhood that got her thinking about an “Avenue of Heroes,” a program also used in Huntington Beach. Reminded that the road is more than a noisy commuter haul, but the route of slain soldiers, presidents, dignitaries, and families seeing loved ones off for deployment, she took the idea to the city council.

“It was to both honor and build a better relationship with the Navy to improve traffic,” she says.

The city agreed, and in April 2014 designated Third and Fourth streets the Avenue of Heroes and adopted the Hometown Heroes Banner Program to recognize service members who reside there or have done so in the past.

“All SEALs are considered residents because they live here while training,” she says.

Residents also formed the Third and Fourth Streets Planning group, hoping to do what neither Caltrans — which owns the road — nor the city could: they discussed slowing traffic with safe pedestrian crossings, and reclaiming alleys for gardens and walkable parkways.

They wanted to foster a sense of community that would be shared by drivers. They imagined dedicated statues, a military walk of fame, and traffic-calming devices from medians to themed green spaces from bridge to base. The focus was restoring village charm, but soon after they formed, one member’s son was hit by a car and seriously injured.

“That spun what we were doing into an effort for safety,” says McGowan.

The accident happened near the bridge, where residents disagreed about solutions. “The folks on SR-75 became split over installing a light at Fourth and B,” McGowan says.

Since some saw the banners as distractions to drivers, it was decided they would only be placed on SR-282. The group became the Avenue of Heroes Neighborhood Association after that, McGowan says. “We focus on SR-282, from Orange to base.”

Len Kaine's banner will return to the Avenue of Heroes

The banner program is a joint effort of the neighborhood group, the city, VFW Post 2422, and the Coronado Historical Association. The banners are erected on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. And some come down to make way for others, like the banner for Len Kaine, a Top Gun pilot, though it will return for Fourth of July events.

“I have a proposal in to the city for prettier light standards to mount banners from, hoping we can create a new theme for the neighborhood so it does not feel so much like a state highway.”

But there are bigger plans in the works. Last month, McGowan helped get a bill introduced that would give the highway a special designation as a Memorial Blue Star Highway, a program that began in 1945 to honor WWII veterans.

This year, on Memorial Day on the Avenue of Heroes, a new banner will be raised to honor Charles Keating.

“This is why we are seeking Blue Star Highway designation.”

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After coming off the Coronado bridge — speed limit 50 — most drivers don't slow to the posted 25 mph on Fourth Street.
After coming off the Coronado bridge — speed limit 50 — most drivers don't slow to the posted 25 mph on Fourth Street.

A private funeral on May 13 for Charles Keating, a Navy SEAL killed in combat in Iraq last week, was followed by a procession of vehicles along Coronado’s Avenue of Heroes.

That route, SR-282, is not only a national defense highway; it’s also a pair of local streets where residents have struggled to create safety and a neighborhood feel.

The Third and Fourth streets corridor between bridge and base sees more daily traffic than any highway in the county that isn’t a freeway. The city has tackled it with studies and proposals, commissions, votes, and public meetings — for decades.

In the past three years, on the worst stretch near the bridge, crashes with bikes and pedestrians have left two teens with brain injuries and killed an elderly man who tried to cross Fourth Street. Here the road is SR-75, which turns into SR-282 after crossing Orange Avenue several blocks later.

Fixing traffic while honoring the military route may seem like clashing goals. But residents of 282, the quieter end, hope to be a model for the entire corridor.

Sponsored
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It was another fallen SEAL who passed through Toni McGowan’s Third Street neighborhood that got her thinking about an “Avenue of Heroes,” a program also used in Huntington Beach. Reminded that the road is more than a noisy commuter haul, but the route of slain soldiers, presidents, dignitaries, and families seeing loved ones off for deployment, she took the idea to the city council.

“It was to both honor and build a better relationship with the Navy to improve traffic,” she says.

The city agreed, and in April 2014 designated Third and Fourth streets the Avenue of Heroes and adopted the Hometown Heroes Banner Program to recognize service members who reside there or have done so in the past.

“All SEALs are considered residents because they live here while training,” she says.

Residents also formed the Third and Fourth Streets Planning group, hoping to do what neither Caltrans — which owns the road — nor the city could: they discussed slowing traffic with safe pedestrian crossings, and reclaiming alleys for gardens and walkable parkways.

They wanted to foster a sense of community that would be shared by drivers. They imagined dedicated statues, a military walk of fame, and traffic-calming devices from medians to themed green spaces from bridge to base. The focus was restoring village charm, but soon after they formed, one member’s son was hit by a car and seriously injured.

“That spun what we were doing into an effort for safety,” says McGowan.

The accident happened near the bridge, where residents disagreed about solutions. “The folks on SR-75 became split over installing a light at Fourth and B,” McGowan says.

Since some saw the banners as distractions to drivers, it was decided they would only be placed on SR-282. The group became the Avenue of Heroes Neighborhood Association after that, McGowan says. “We focus on SR-282, from Orange to base.”

Len Kaine's banner will return to the Avenue of Heroes

The banner program is a joint effort of the neighborhood group, the city, VFW Post 2422, and the Coronado Historical Association. The banners are erected on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. And some come down to make way for others, like the banner for Len Kaine, a Top Gun pilot, though it will return for Fourth of July events.

“I have a proposal in to the city for prettier light standards to mount banners from, hoping we can create a new theme for the neighborhood so it does not feel so much like a state highway.”

But there are bigger plans in the works. Last month, McGowan helped get a bill introduced that would give the highway a special designation as a Memorial Blue Star Highway, a program that began in 1945 to honor WWII veterans.

This year, on Memorial Day on the Avenue of Heroes, a new banner will be raised to honor Charles Keating.

“This is why we are seeking Blue Star Highway designation.”

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