Panel Endorses Proposals for New Freeway, Upper Decks

September 29, 1987|JAMES QUINN | Times Staff Writer

An upper deck on portions of the Ventura, Hollywood and San Diego freeways and a new north-south freeway in the West San Fernando Valley are among the potentially controversial proposals endorsed Monday by a committee of Valley elected officials and civic leaders.

The upper decks would be toll roads and would also carry light-rail lines under the plan tentatively approved by the San Fernando Valley Area Transportation Study Committee, an advisory group of more than 50 officials created by the Legislature to propose solutions to the Valley's traffic problems.

The proposed West Valley freeway would connect the intersection of the Golden State and Antelope Valley freeways in Sylmar with the Ventura Freeway near the Woodland Hills-Calabasas border.

The panel of elected officials, homeowner and business leaders and transportation experts was formed in response to a 1984 study that showed the Valley facing far greater congestion by the year 2000 than any of the other 25 planning areas into which Southern California is divided.

The 30 committee members who discussed the staff report Monday, approved it by voice vote without dissent.

Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson, who chairs the committee, acknowledged that "some people will object, as some people always do" to the proposals, "but these ideas are far less controversial than gridlock, which is what we face."

The staff report endorsed by the committee did not specify a north-south route through the heavily congested West Valley.

But Bernson, who represents the northwest Valley, said he envisions the freeway crossing the Simi Valley Freeway west of Topanga Canyon Boulevard, clinging to the base of the Santa Susana Mountains west of the Chatsworth Reservoir and intersecting the Ventura Freeway west of Valley Circle Boulevard.

"It would avoid almost all built-up areas and would also stay away from the scenic Chatsworth Reservoir," he said.

The new freeway would provide a much-needed commuting route between Warner Center and the Chatsworth industrial area, both of which are fast-growing centers of employment, and the bedroom communities in the north Valley and the Santa Clarita Valley, Bernson said.

He called it a "very high-priority freeway, not just with me, but with other committee members."

Viggen Davidian, principal transportation planner for the Southern California Assn. of Governments, said the West Valley freeway was proposed in response to a study that projected "tremendous growth in traffic along that route, and no plans anywhere to alleviate the situation."

Davidian, who heads the staff that provides information to the committee, said there were similar projections for congestion on the Ventura and San Diego freeways.

He said the Legislature's recent precedent-setting approval of a toll road for Orange County has raised the possibility that the Valley could solve its congestion problems quickly with roads financed by bonds to be paid off by future tolls.

The staff report approved by the committee envisions an upper deck on the Ventura Freeway from Valley Circle Boulevard to the Hollywood Freeway, then south through the Cahuenga Pass.

On the San Diego Freeway, the upper deck would begin at Victory Boulevard and extend south at least to the Santa Monica Freeway and possibly to the South Bay area, Davidian said.

The upper decks would be aimed primarily at through traffic and would have only a few exits and entrances, he said, possibly only at intersections with other freeways.

Davidian estimated that an upper deck would cost between $35 million to $50 million a mile, as opposed to $80 million a mile for a new freeway for which land must be acquired.

Bernson said that with sound walls on both upper and lower decks, noise levels could be held stable or even lowered.

He said that with bond financing, "We could get started on these right away, rather than waiting decades" as is often the case for highways financed with gas-tax receipts and federal funds.

He also said that placing light rail lines above the freeway would "get us out of the problem we now face with no good route for such a line."

The five light-rail routes under study by the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission all are unacceptable, he said, because they go too close to houses or travel to areas with low expected ridership.

The proposal to place upper decks on the Ventura and San Diego freeways drew prompt opposition from Gerald A. Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino, who said two-lane freeways would "increase already intolerable noise levels" and would "provide a handy excuse to developers who want to build larger projects."

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