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Work beings to ease traffic in Baldwin Park

Crews break ground on carpool lanes on the 10 Freeway. The estimated $175-million project creates lanes that stretch about two miles in each direction from the 605 Freeway to Puente Avenue.

November 07, 2009|Ari B. Bloomekatz

Baldwin Park Mayor Manuel Lozano has a catchphrase for how you know you're in his city.

"If you want to know where Baldwin Park is, if you're traveling either east or west on the 10 Freeway and you come to a complete stop, you know you're in Baldwin Park," he says.

The area bottlenecks at rush hour, Lozano said, with commuters traveling between Los Angeles and San Bernardino County.

Sometimes, he said, it's so bad that commuters pull over and stop at In-N-Out Burger to pass the time, hoping the congestion eases.

But some relief -- not in the form of Double-Doubles and animal-style fries -- is on the way.

Construction crews broke ground this week on a new carpool lane on the 10 Freeway in Baldwin Park. The estimated $175-million project creates carpool lanes that stretch about 2.2 miles in each direction from the 605 Freeway to Puente Avenue.

It's the first phase of a larger project -- which will cost an additional $350 million -- aimed at widening the 10 from the 605 to the 57 Freeway. When complete, there will be a seamless carpool lane on the 10 Freeway from downtown L.A. to eastern suburbs in L.A. and San Bernardino counties.

There is general agreement that the 10 Freeway is overburdened with its current load of traffic.

The 10 was one of L.A.'s first freeways, running east out of downtown to the burgeoning suburbs that sprouted up in the San Gabriel Valley -- places like Baldwin Park.

But over the last few decades, housing growth has pushed further east, well into San Bernardino and Riverside counties, bringing more commuters into L.A. for work.

The demographic shift is evident during rush hour, when the 10 Freeway and the other major east-west routes -- the 60 and the 210 freeways -- are jammed with traffic.

Transportation planners have for years tried to fix the problem, including building a busway through a portion of the 10 Freeway.

In 2007, officials opened the last link of the 210 Freeway in San Bernardino County.

At the time, some expected the 210 extension to ease traffic congestion on the 10 and 215 freeways.

But Doug Failing, executive director of the highway program at the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said that the 210 Freeway did not pull as much traffic from the 10 Freeway as some might have expected.

Rather, it appears to have pulled commuters who were using surface streets, Failing said.

There are other efforts underway to ease congestion through the San Gabriel Valley, including a roughly $79-million project to remake part of the 10-605 interchange, which commuters and transportation officials agree can be treacherous. The interchange design is confusing and hard to navigate.

Caltrans plans to rework the connection from the southbound 605 to the eastbound 10 beginning in 2012, with officials hoping the move will ease congestion and make the roadway safer.

Failing said completing the Gold Line Foothill Extension commuter rail, which would run from Pasadena to as far east as the Ontario airport, could also help ease the commute into Los Angeles.

Right now, there are four vehicle lanes in each direction on the 10 Freeway through Baldwin Park. After the widening, there would be a carpool lane in each direction as well. This stretch of the 10 carries about 240,000 vehicles a day, Caltrans said.

Additionally, Caltrans is restoring pavement on the freeway between the 5 and 605 freeways.

Mayor Lozano said he knows all these improvements won't make the traffic congestion in Baldwin Park disappear. But he hopes the extra carpool lanes will make the commute a little bit better and also improve local air quality if more people share rides.

"It's about time," he said. The freeway "has really outgrown itself."

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ari.bloomekatz @latimes.com

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