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Studiously Studying Studies

January 22, 2002

If you're reading this editorial while inching along the Hollywood Freeway this morning, you might be creeping up on Sunset about now. Due to possible excitement, put your car in neutral before reading further. Ready? They've started construction on a new study to fix the Hollywood Freeway. Finally, another study.

Organizers say this new study, a $4.5-million doozy by a consortium of government agencies, is better than all past studies about the 101 because it seeks public input and addresses not just pieces but fully 40 miles of the overburdened Hollywood and Ventura roadways between Thousand Oaks and downtown. The goal of the "U.S. 101 Freeway Improvement Study," they say, is to improve safety and reduce congestion. How about a study to reduce studies?

The latest study starts this evening with an Encino community meeting. If you turn around now, you might just make it. But because the 101's creeping, crawling traffic has become so frustrating for thousands of drivers each weekday, they're going to fast-track the study. This "major multimodal corridor study" should take only about three years "approximately" to compile many recommendations to go into future studies.

Factoring in time for lawsuits, environmental studies, countersuits, funding problems, bidding challenges, cost overruns and construction delays, you figure that maybe in nine or 10 more years the Hollywood Freeway, one of California's most heavily traveled, could be getting another brand-new study. This major artery is that important.

Way back when, city leaders considered several names for these newfangled thoroughfares without intersections. One was parkway, as in the Cahuenga Parkway, the Hollywood Freeway's first 3,700-foot section, built in 136 days in 1940 to handle the growing number of "autoists." Other names were expressway, speedway and freeway. Prescient planners wisely opted to focus on the lack of tolls.

Since then, the Hollywood Freeway has been extended, widened and improved so that many more vehicles can move much more slowly, even on weekends. If all the well-meaning studies conducted over the decades slid off a flatbed, they'd cause a major SigAlert. Now if city officials are serious about giving Valley voters more reasons to reject secession, here's an idea: Do something besides studying to ease driving between there and downtown.

History books note that as late as the early 1900s travelers could spend the better part of an entire day getting through the San Fernando Valley on the Butterfield stage. It's comforting to know now that thanks to the arrival of a few million new residents and a chronic focus on studies, not much has changed along historic Route 101. Even at $112,500 per mile, this latest study won't threaten the status quo. Maybe drivers can be surveyed while they're parked on the freeway.

OK, step on it. You can probably move up another car length by now.

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