NORWALK — The city and Caltrans agreed to change the design of off-ramps at the eastern end of the Century Freeway to prevent an increase of thousands of cars per day from clogging busy intersections and residential neighborhoods once the freeway is completed in 1993.
Construction on portions of the freeway in Norwalk was stopped in May at the request of the City Council. The council voted to withdraw the request Tuesday night.
A spokeswoman for a group of residents, who live in neighborhoods where the freeway ends, said she is satisfied with the agreement.
"This is a very big victory for everyone," said Nancy Luque, chairwoman of Citizens Under Freeway Fallout (CUFF). "The community will have a livable situation."
Federal, State Funds
The changes in the off-ramp system will cost from $2.5 million to $3 million, Caltrans Deputy Dist. Director C.J. O'Connell said. Federal funds will cover more than 90% of the bill, and the state will pay for the rest, he said.
The agreement concerns the area where the Century Freeway crosses the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway and ends at Studebaker Road, south of Imperial Highway. A light rail system will run down the center of the Century Freeway; a rail station and park-and-ride lot will eventually be built where the freeway ends.
To provide access to the park-and-ride lot, the California Department of Transportation planned to build an off-ramp from the northbound I-605 onto Imperial Highway. Motorists would have had to travel east on Imperial Highway and then south on Studebaker Road to reach the entrance of the park-and-ride lot and the rail station. Southbound traffic from the I-605 also would use Imperial Highway and Studebaker Road to enter the facility.
Traffic coming off the Century Freeway would have exited directly onto Studebaker and entered the park-and ride lot. Motorists using the park-and-ride facility would have traveled through a residential neighborhood west of Studebaker Road.
CUFF members protested that the routing would ruin their neighborhoods with noisy traffic. They caught the ear of the City Council, which passed the resolution in May calling for Caltrans to stop construction. At the time, city officials threatened to go to court if Caltrans would not meet their demands.
State Sen. Cecil N. Green (D-Norwalk) and Assemblyman Bob Epple (D-Norwalk) intervened to help negotiate the agreement with Caltrans.
Under the agreement, Hoxie Avenue will be extended from Imperial Highway to the park-and-ride lot. Northbound traffic from the I-605 will exit onto Hoxie Avenue and head south into the park-and-ride lot. Southbound traffic from the I-605 will still head east on Imperial, but motorists will reach the park-and-ride lot via Hoxie Avenue.
In addition, cars leaving the park-and-ride lot will get on the I-605 via Hoxie Avenue.
The extension of Hoxie Avenue and related changes to on-ramps and off-ramps will keep hundreds of vehicles out of the congested intersection of Imperial Highway and Studebaker Road, Caltrans officials said.
City officials also were concerned about motorists who would travel to the end of the Century Freeway and exit on Studebaker Road, contributing to traffic congestion and to wear and tear on city streets.
Caltrans agreed to restrict the Studebaker Road exit to car-pool traffic. That will reduce the number of vehicles exiting onto Studebaker Road each day from about 25,000 to 5,000.
Caltrans also agreed to install numerous sound walls to protect area neighborhoods.
O'Connell said Caltrans learned only several months ago about the city's dissatisfaction with the off-ramp system and quickly moved to provide a remedy.
But CUFF and city officials said it took the pressure of the resolution and help from area legislators to move the state agency. They commended Caltrans for making the changes to protect area residents.
"Caltrans has done an outstanding job coming back and working with us," Mayor Grace Napolitano said.