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‘Absolute chaos,’ Navigation apps blamed for traffic nightmare on one of L.A.’s steepest streets

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Navigation apps have created unsafe traffic conditions on one of the steepest streets in the Los Angeles area, causing a series of dangerous crashes and spinouts, according to fed-up residents.

A section of Baxter Street in Echo Park, as seen in a still from Drone5.

A section of Baxter Street in Echo Park, as seen in a still from Drone5.

The road in question is Baxter Street in Echo Park.

Residents told KTLA on Wednesday it has become busier in recent years, with too many people using the quiet residential road on their daily commutes. One possible reason they cite is the proliferation of navigation apps such as Waze and Google Maps, which many in the city use to circumvent traffic.

In this case, Baxter is being used by motorists trying to get around a heavily trafficked part of Glendale Boulevard that is routinely jammed during the rush-hour commute.

Signs along Baxter Street caution drivers of the sharp grade; another simply reads "Hill blocks the view."

Still, despite warnings, the incline is causing regular problems, especially among drivers unfamiliar with the steep terrain, according to residents.

"They get up there, get almost to the top - they slow down because they see the top - then they got on the very top and they stop," said Jeff Hartman. "And, then the people behind them lose their traction because they're still going up the hill, and then everybody starts slipping and sliding and they go all different way."

Resident Jeff Hartman provided this photo of a car that flipped over on Baxter Street.

Resident Jeff Hartman provided this photo of a car that flipped over on Baxter Street.

And, that's just what happens on dry, sunny days. When it's raining, the road becomes "absolute chaos," as another resident described it.

"Every car is slipping," said Michael Wickstrom. "When you have 35 percent grade and rear-wheel drive, you're not going to make it."

Hartman provided images and videos of a number of accidents on the street to KTLA, including one photo of a car that somehow ended up overturned in someone's front yard.

His footage of another incident on a wet, rainy day showed a car stalled sideways on the road as other motorists tried to pass it along the treacherous two-lane street.

And, recently, an incident involving a vehicle resulted in the destruction of a resident's wooden fence.

Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, who brought the issue to light in a column posted early Wednesday, noted the street was built more than 100 years ago. It was designed more for animals like goats than for people or vehicles, as he put it.

Baxter Street in Echo Park has seen increased traffic because of navigation apps. (Credit: Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Baxter Street in Echo Park has seen increased traffic because of navigation apps. (Credit: Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

The Times reported the grade is approximately 32 percent, making it the third-steepest in the city. It also ranks among the top 10 nationally.

Robbie Adams, another resident on Baxter, told the newspaper he and other neighbors contacted Waze to notify them of the issue and have suggested removing the street as a possible shortcut.

"They said they couldn't do that because it involves changing the algorithm of the app in a weird way," Adams said.

Residents are scheduled to meet with L.A. City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell and Los Angeles Department of Transportation officials at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the issue.

The councilman's office told KTLA a number of possible solutions are on the table, including making Baxter a one-way street.