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Freeway Bypass Skirting Downtown Gaining Favor

May 22, 1986|LARRY GORDON | Times Staff Writer

A committee of the Los Angeles County Grand Jury and a downtown business group are trying to revive the controversial idea of extending the Glendale Freeway from where it now ends abruptly in Silver Lake, dumping high-speed traffic onto Glendale Boulevard.

The new proposal, called a "downtown bypass," would extend the roadway southward for about eight miles, crossing both the Hollywood and Santa Monica freeways and ending with a hookup to the Harbor Freeway near Slauson Avenue in South Central Los Angeles. Its goal is to ease traffic on the Harbor Freeway through downtown and encourage redevelopment to the west by improving access to that area, its backers say.

"It will let the city breathe and expand west," said Albert Martin, the influential architect who fathered the idea and won support for it recently from the Central City Assn., to which he belongs. The Government Operations Committee of the Grand Jury endorsed the plan last week.

The report is advisory and can be ignored by elected officials.

Earlier Plan Killed

In 1975, the state Legislature killed a California Department of Transportation proposal to extend the Glendale Freeway, or California 2, about two miles on a more southwesterly slant to the Hollywood Freeway, in what was to have been the first leg of a new east-west freeway to Beverly Hills. The state is still mopping up messy problems that followed the cancellation, including repairing and selling off properties it had acquired for right-of-way.

Any revival of construction through Silver Lake and Echo Park is sure to draw fire, some officials say. Especially worrisome, they say, would be any destruction of scenic hillsides and displacement of low-income families.

"We would fight it,' said Larry Kaplan, chief deputy to Los Angeles Councilman Michael Woo, whose area would be affected. "It's absurd. The fact that they are even talking about it is laughable."

"I don't see how they could do it, especially since they just went though all the expense of selling off the Route 2 properties. But, if they were to try it, we would be standing right there," said Curtis Tucker Jr., aide to Assemblyman Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles), who represents much of Silver Lake and Echo Park.

Adding to the plan's troubles is the fact that the Grand Jury's Government Operations Committee recommended it along with a proposal that the county Board of Supervisors study the possibility of charging tolls on some freeways. Supervisor Ed Edelman said he thought both the tolls and bypass deserve closer study, but the toll idea has drawn sharp criticism from other supervisors.

Nevertheless, backers of the bypass say they will persist in pushing for their plan. "I don't think there is any question that there will be objections raised. But, no matter where you go, you're going to have fights. We have to finally rise above personal objections in planning the greatest city in America," said architect Martin.

He said much of the western side of downtown is blighted and ripe for redevelopment. "I am not thinking of the real estate opportunities at all. I am thinking about the people who live there," he said, explaining his belief that residents would benefit from new--and what he hopes will be affordable--housing.

Martin estimated that the road would cost about $250 million, a figure he described as "not that big a deal in terms of the cost of the congestion." However, a spokesman for Caltrans said each mile of such an urban freeway could cost as much as $100 million, depending on the value of existing buildings in its path.

The Grand Jury committee report does not address the question of who would pay for the road but suggests that county supervisors and City Council study that issue.

Looked at Trouble Spots

Marilyn Johnson, a member of the five-person Grand Jury committee, said the group looked at several of the worst traffic spots in the city before deciding that the downtown bypass was the most needed improvement.

"We are not just shooting from the hip," she said. At least half the traffic on the downtown stretch of the Harbor Freeway is through traffic and does not need to be downtown, according to Martin. So that part of the freeway, along with such feeder roads as Figueroa Street and Glendale Boulevard, have become bottlenecks. The bypass would ease that flow, especially at the interchanges of the Harbor and Hollywood freeways and the Harbor and Golden State freeways.

Its backers stress that their map for the new road is far from being final.

But, as drawn, the bypass would cut southwest of Glendale Boulevard and follow a diagonal line near Coronado Street, a few blocks west of and paralleling Alvarado Street. On the same diagonal, it would cut between Lafayette and MacArthur parks and continue to the Santa Monica Freeway just south of Rosedale Cemetery. It would then turn due south between Normandie and Vermont avenues, west of USC and Exposition Park, and southeast just past Manual Arts High School to the Harbor Freeway at Slauson Avenue.

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