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Brakes Put on Sepulveda Widening Near LAX

November 09, 2001|From a Times Staff Writer

A controversial plan to widen a stretch of Sepulveda Boulevard through the Westchester area north of Los Angeles International Airport has been kicked to the curb by city officials.

Los Angeles traffic engineers had proposed adding two lanes to the six-lane roadway, which is a popular shortcut for motorists headed to the airport.

But the $5.6 million for the widening should instead be spent on more "community-friendly" traffic improvements, said Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who represents the Westchester area.

About 30 opponents of the street widening applauded when the City Council voted 13-1 Wednesday to direct the city's Department of Transportation "to halt immediately" its Sepulveda-widening plans. Transit planners were instructed to discuss alternative traffic improvements with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The proposed street widening-- of about two miles between Centinela Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard--has been eyed by city transportation planners since 1983. Work was expected to begin in 2003. Along with extra traffic lanes, the project would have included new trees, sidewalks and landscaped medians.

Westchester business owners and community leaders opposed the widening project, contending it would destroy the small-town character of their main business district and funnel too many cars through the residential community.

The widening project was included in a 1985 transportation master plan approved by the City Council. Since then, opponents have sought to link it to the proposed expansion of LAX, the development of the nearby Playa Vista project, and construction of the Howard Hughes Center, an office and commercial complex north of Westchester.

Sepulveda's widening was protested last month when more than 800 people jammed a town hall meeting.

Opponents also stressed that the drop in the usage of LAX since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has put its expansion plans in limbo.

"This project did nothing to improve the community of Westchester," Galanter said. "Widening Sepulveda Boulevard would only signal an end to a small-town feel that has been seriously battered by generations of airport expansion."

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