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$1.2 Million Set Aside for Cahuenga Pass Study : Traffic: The transit authority will foot the bill for an examination of environmental impacts now and in the future.

July 23, 1994|VIVIEN LOU CHEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Metropolitan Transit Authority has allocated $1.2 million to conduct an environmental impact study of present and future traffic conditions on Cahuenga and Barham boulevards in the Cahuenga Pass, a major link between the San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles Basin.

The report will try to determine whether it makes sense to replace the Barham Boulevard Bridge with a wider version, among other options. The bridge crosses the Hollywood Freeway in the pass.

The freeway runs over the Santa Monica Mountains from Hollywood to Universal City, where the Hollywood Freeway intersects the Ventura Freeway. The bridge over the freeway connects Cahuenga Boulevard West to Barham Boulevard, which leads directly into Burbank's Media District. Cahuenga Boulevard parallels the freeway, and is used as an alternate route by many motorists when the freeway is congested.

Cahuenga and Barham boulevards, and the Hollywood Freeway, are used by more than 300,000 vehicles a day coming through the pass. An estimated 80,000 of those vehicles travel on or near the Barham Boulevard Bridge, and the surface streets are becoming as congested as the freeway.

"The freeway itself is a source of problems because it doesn't connect well to the (Ventura Freeway) and spills a lot of traffic onto this corridor, traffic it wasn't meant to carry," said William Lundgren, Burbank's transportation administrator.

Any improvements to the Barham Boulevard Bridge are subject in part to whether three jurisdictions--the cities of Los Angeles and Burbank, and Los Angeles County--will provide the money.

Initially, the MTA approved more than $2 million for preliminary engineering studies to be done on the bridge. Then the agency changed its mind when it became clear not enough money was available for the studies, said Larry Zarian, vice chairman of the MTA board.

The agency reconsidered, and on July 13, allocated $1.2 million, a portion of which was reserved for design work on the project, he added. "I had to fight like crazy for it," Zarian said.

Burbank and Los Angeles city transportation officials hope to widen the Barham Boulevard Bridge and add a second bridge just north of it at the turn of the century, for an estimated $19.1 million.

Two groups are keeping a close eye on the bridge study: residents who want controlled growth and relief from traffic gridlock, and every major film and television studio in Burbank and Universal City that needs wider roadways to accommodate developments.

"The traffic situation is very difficult and exacerbated by growth at MCA, particularly the CityWalk and special events at Universal City," said Tony Lucente of the Studio City Residents Assn.

"It's a very delicate balance and it doesn't take much to tip the balance. We support a coordinated effort to deal with this very difficult problem. The impact is felt beyond one community."

T.K. Prime, a senior transportation engineer for the city of Los Angeles, said preliminary studies have been done on the Cahuenga and Barham boulevard widening projects, but the city has not yet looked for funding.

If nothing is done to alleviate traffic congestion through the Barham-Cahuenga corridor, those streets will no longer be a useful alternative to the Hollywood Freeway, Lundgren warned. Gridlock, he said, "would continue until the travel time on those streets is greater than on the freeway, and people would take the freeway again."

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