By Aaron Blevins, 7/19/2012
Funding is allocated to give motorists a smoother ride
On Wednesday, City Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District, had a confession to make: the city will be spending money twice to fix Wilshire Boulevard, but residents will not have to wait until 2013 to get a break from potholes and poor road conditions.
LaBonge held a community meeting on Wednesday at LACMA West to discuss three projects — the upcoming street repairs, the Bus Rapid Transit project and the subway extension — and how they will affect residents.
“This is the worst street in our city right now,” he said.
While LaBonge would prefer to repair Wilshire Boulevard all at once, he said the deterioration of the city’s main artery requires immediate attention. Therefore, the city will begin an $800,000 project to repair the boulevard’s curbside lanes in August.
“I’m spending money twice, but it’s in such poor condition,” LaBonge said. “I hate to do it.”
Keith Mozee, of the city’s Bureau of Street Services, said the gutter lane repairs will stretch from Wilton Place to Fairfax Avenue. The work will take from three to six weeks, and contractors will work primarily on weekends and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week, he said.
Mozee said workers will resurface the curbside lanes, while improving their durability. The middle lanes will not be resurfaced. He said construction crews will only focus on one section of Wilshire Boulevard at a time, and they will reopen the roadway when each segment is completed.
“It will not be closed overnight,” Mozee said, adding that some construction vehicles will park on the thoroughfare overnight.
One resident asked if officials could stretch the project to Crescent Heights Boulevard, and Mozee said they would review the possibility. The project will be funded through Prop. C funding, which stems from the half-cent sales tax increase in Measure R.
The $30 million Bus Rapid Transit project will create bus-only lanes during peak hours and a full-depth reconstruction of Wilshire Boulevard’s curb lanes. Officials hope to have the work started next year and completed by 2014.
Steve Chen, of the city’s Bureau of Engineering, said the entire section of the route, which runs from Valencia Street downtown to the Santa Monica city limits, has been surveyed and assessed. There is currently no funding to address Wilshire Boulevard’s middle lanes.
Kang Hu, of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, said that, despite concerns about the traffic impacts of reducing the curb lanes to bus-only lanes during peak hours, the environmental impact report suggests that the impact will not be significant.
“The curb lane is in such bad shape, not a lot of traffic uses the curb lane,” Hu said.
The impacts of the construction will be felt locally. While crews work on the curb lanes, middle lanes will likely serve as a working area. Hu said the department is striving to only close a couple of blocks at a time.
LaBonge said there will also be parking issues, especially in the Miracle Mile. Traffic will likely move to 6th Street or Olympic Boulevard, and officials are working to get traffic officers assigned to help mitigate problems. Chen said the city is pursuing an “aggressive” public outreach program as well.
“The hope is no one is surprised when this occurs,” he said, adding that crews will also improve sections of sidewalks when necessary.
The Bus Rapid Transit project will be funded through a $23 million federal grant, with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and the city contributing $7 million.
Lastly, Jody Litvak, of Metro, discussed the Purple Line extension from the Wilshire/Western station to Westwood. She said the project will span nine miles, create seven new stations and will occur in three phases.
The first new station, Wilshire/La Brea, will have an entrance at the northwest corner of the intersection, with construction staging at the northwest and southwest corners. Contractors will begin utility relocation work in August, and that will continue until 2014. The station will run east of Orange Drive to Detroit Street, an area that will be heavily impacted, Litvak said.
“We’re breaking some eggs, but we’re going to make a really, really, really good omelet,” she added.
The Wilshire/Fairfax station will have north and south entrances, and staging will occur at the intersection of Orange Grove Avenue and Ogden Drive.
She said construction will commence in 2014, with the hope of having all three phases operational by 2036. If Metro receives funding to accelerate the project, all three phases could be ready by 2022.
“The real, actual construction will be in 2014, but it may feel like that sooner,” Litvak said.
She said the project’s environmental impact report has been approved, but Metro is waiting for a “record and decision” from the Federal Transit Administration, as well as other local approvals.
Litvak said plenty of work remains, and Metro staffers will continue to seek resident input in regards to the project.
“We are interested in your input, and there are things to think about,” she said.
For information about the subway project, visit www.metro.net/westside.