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A Bad Year for Dodgers, but a Good One for Drivers

October 29, 1987|DOUG SMITH | Times Staff Writer

Maybe it was just a case of poetic injustice.

After the years of pennant drives, sellout crowds and, inevitably, traffic gridlock in the communities surrounding Elysian Park, the Los Angeles Dodgers had a really bad year.

And it was just when they were being monitored.

Answering years of complaints by residents, the city hired a traffic consultant this season to document the disruption of little-known communities such as Angelino Heights and Elysian Valley when the downtown rush-hour traffic met incoming baseball fans.

The downtown commuters did their part.

Back-Road Detours

When the junction of the Glendale Freeway and Glendale Boulevard was blocked, they took the back roads through the hills to get downtown.

When the inbound ramp from the Golden State Freeway to the Pasadena Freeway was backed up for miles, as it was almost every morning, they got off at Stadium Way and found bypass routes along Academy Way, Boylston Street and Solano Avenue.

But it was the Dodgers who threw the study a curve.

In a report released last week by the consultant, DKS Associates, traffic engineers concluded what residents of Elysian Park had already suspected from their own observations: that Dodger traffic did not produce the horrible crunches remembered from other years.

The report is the first step in a $50,000 traffic study commissioned by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to improve circulation in the Elysian Park area to ease the impact of Dodger and commuter traffic on homeowners.

Proponents said they are satisfied that the report proves their case, if a little imagination is applied.

"Keep in mind that the Dodgers weren't doing so well," said Barbara Vineyard, a representative of half a dozen community groups whose complaints prompted the study.

Attendance for the Dodgers' 1987 season fell 200,000 short of the previous year's, a spokesman for the team said. In July and August, when most of the monitoring was done, attendance averaged between 34,000 and 36,000, about 20,000 less than the stadium holds.

The effect was portrayed graphically in DKS's report on a game in late July selected for scrutiny because its 5:10 p.m. start time coincided with Monday commuter traffic and its attendance was forecast at 40,000.

The actual attendance was only 35,000. DKS engineer Maurice Mitchell drove to all four of the major intersections around Elysian Park and found only minor congestion about a half hour before the game and 45 minutes after it.

"It was much lighter than we expected," Mitchell said.

In general, Mitchell found pregame traffic caused problems at the intersections of Sunset Boulevard and Elysian Park Avenue and Glendale Boulevard and Scott Avenue.

On the worst days, he said, Dodger traffic temporarily cut off access to Solano Canyon and blocked both north and south on-ramps to the Pasadena Freeway from Stadium Way.

Biggest Problem at Rush Hour

Generally, however, the consultant found the area's biggest problem is the daily rush-hour traffic on routes around Elysian Park.

The worst conditions, the report said, occur in the morning on the single-lane connector from the Golden State to the Pasadena freeways, causing tie-ups back to the Riverside Drive exit.

Caltrans is examining ways of widening the connector to two lanes but has not yet released any plans, Mitchell said.

Other intersections that proved inadequate for commuter traffic were those at Sunset Boulevard and Alvarado Street, Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park Avenue, and Glendale Boulevard and Allesandro Street, where the Glendale Freeway empties.

Residents who proposed the traffic study said they are pleased those problems were documented, even if their complaints about Dodger traffic were not.

"I don't see any revelations in this study because it's only showing what we already know," said Bennett Kayser, president of the Federation of Hillside and Canyon Assns. "What we know is that there are already problems and Dodger Stadium makes these problems worse."

Kayser said he also believes that the comments of Elysian Park residents, summarized at length in the report, will give traffic engineers the message that their job now is to reduce traffic through Elysian Park, not increase it.

"The key thing about this study is it's the first study the city has commissioned that looks at the traffic from the point of view of, 'How is the neighborhood affected?' " Kayser said. "If this works, it may serve as a precedent."

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