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FROM LATIMES.COM

Sepulveda expansion could slow the ride to LAX

July 30, 2007|Ari B. Bloomekatz; Rong-Gong Lin Ii

Here are some of the issues and ideas being discussed on the Bottleneck Blog, The Times' website devoted to all things traffic.

That shortcut to LAX won't be much of a shortcut for a while.

City officials began an $11.6-million improvement project last week on Sepulveda Boulevard in Westchester near Los Angeles International Airport.

The renovations will expand Sepulveda from three lanes to four lanes between Howard Hughes Parkway and Lincoln Boulevard.

Currently, one of the three lanes is used for street parking, and the expansion will allow for three lanes of traffic in each direction and a fourth lane devoted to parking in the business district.

Officials broke ground Wednesday and plan to replant 30 palm trees and add 180 new trees along the strip, as well as add merging lanes and right turn lanes into local side streets, said Michelle Vargas, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works.

Crews will work from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, focusing on one side of the boulevard at a time. Vargas said officials expect the project to be completed in the summer of 2009. Construction will halt for holiday breaks between Nov. 16 and Jan. 4.

Officials hope the construction will relieve traffic congestion while still providing parking for businesses along one of L.A.'s busiest corridors, Vargas said.

Getting community support for the project was daunting at first, but Vargas said the collaboration between several city groups and the local neighborhood proved successful.

"It definitely involved a lot of the city family," Vargas said.

About 800 Westchester residents cried foul at a town hall meeting in 2001 in response to the original plan proposed by the Department of Transportation, and then-Councilwoman Ruth Galanter successfully passed a motion voicing the council's opposition to any attempt at widening the strip.

Department of Transportation officials tried again at a town hall meeting a year later with a new proposal, successfully winning the support of many Westchester residents.

-- ARI M. BLOOMEKATZ

Orange County officials are gaining some support for their idea of allowing motorists to drive in and out of carpool lanes freely. Currently, drivers are permitted to enter and exit carpool lanes at certain points, with a double yellow line dividing the lanes from the rest of traffic most of the time.

Backers of greater access to carpool lanes argue that traffic will flow better. Critics are skeptical, saying more lane changing would slow traffic.

What's the view from the freeway? Mixed.

"The idea of removing the double yellow line completely is scary. If there's no double yellow line ... you'll have stopped traffic in regular lanes and people trying to merge into 65 mph traffic" in the carpool lane, said Allan Siposs, 45, an investment banker who commutes on carpool lanes in his Toyota Prius from San Clemente to Irvine.

-- RONG-GONG LIN II

For more continuing online coverage of Southern California traffic and commuting issues, go to latimes.com/bottleneck.

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