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Ventura County

New Study Looks for Ways to Cut Gridlock on 101

Transportation: Numerous agencies are backing the $4.5-million analysis, but longtime commuters doubt it will help reduce traffic.

January 03, 2002|CAITLIN LIU | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A new study of the 101 Freeway, hailed as the most comprehensive analysis ever of the nightmarish highway, is underway, a consortium of government agencies announced Wednesday.

The $4.5-million, three-year effort seeks to reduce congestion and improve safety along the 40-mile stretch from Thousand Oaks to downtown Los Angeles.

Organizers will seek public input during three community meetings this month, but the study is already being greeted with skepticism by longtime commuters who have grown weary of studies done on everything from interchange improvements to double-decking the freeway to building a trolley line along the median.

"Not only do studies come and go, not only has there been no action, the problems [on the 101] are getting worse and worse," said Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. "When will the studies end and the constructions begin?"

"The 101 has been studied to death," said Richard Katz, co-chairman of the San Fernando Valley Transportation Strike Force.

In Ventura County, the heaviest 101 traffic can be found in Thousand Oaks between California 23 and Hampshire Road. Commuters from the growing cities of Moorpark and Simi Valley clog the corridor as they merge from California 23.

In 1998, the California Department of Transportation counted 189,000 cars traveling past the interchange daily in both directions--up 23% from a decade earlier. During the 7:30 to 8:30 morning crunch, 15,800 cars surged past, an increase of 15% from 1988.

Supporters said the new study will be different and may lead to change.

One of the busiest corridors in California, the 101--also known as the Ventura Freeway along its western part and the Hollywood Freeway along its southeastern segment--can resemble a massive parking lot during peak commuting hours. Usually gridlocked in both directions, the freeway channels traffic to and from downtown, Burbank movie studios, the Van Nuys government complex and Warner Center in Woodland Hills.

The 101 is home to two of California's busiest interchanges, where it grinds across the Pasadena Freeway downtown and the San Diego Freeway in Sherman Oaks, said Tom Choe, chief of freeway operations for Caltrans. Only the interchange between the Pasadena and Santa Monica freeways near downtown has more traffic.

The study "is not going to be just another study," said state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), who helped secure much of its funding when she was in the Assembly. Unlike previous analyses, this one will seek public input, examine the entire corridor rather than pieces of it and identify short-term as well as long-term solutions, Kuehl said. Another goal is to identify funding sources for implementing its recommendations.

The study is being conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc., an engineering consulting firm headquartered in New York with offices throughout California.

It is being funded with $3 million from Gov. Gray Davis' Traffic Congestion Relief Program and additional money from Caltrans, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Las Virgenes-Malibu Council of Governments and the Southern California Assn. of Governments.

Compared with other studies, this one is "not amorphous" and has the most comprehensive collaboration of local governments and agencies, which will help ensure its success, said Los Angeles County Supervisor and MTA board member Zev Yaroslavsky.

"We're all looking to see what we can do in the short term and long term to improve that corridor," Yaroslavsky said.

Community meetings from 6 to 8 p.m. will be held on Jan. 22 at Encino Tarzana Medical Center, first floor, 16237 Ventura Blvd.; on Jan. 23 at Calabasas Community Center, Room A, 27040 Malibu Hills Road; and on Jan. 24 at Los Angeles City College, Faculty and Staff Center, 855 N. Vermont Ave.

Additional information is available on the Web at http://www.communityspeakup.com/101 or can be obtained by calling (866) 668-3101.

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