Mid-day drivers exit SR-2 onto Glendale Boulevard at excessive speeds, threatening pedestrian and bicycle safety. At commute time, traffic slows to a maddening crawl as drivers inch toward Glendale Boulevard, Alvarado Street and the 101 Freeway. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority, in conjunction with CalTrans and LA Dot, has a reconstruction project in the works, but some residents say it will not help.
Decreasing traffic is a tall order in Los Angeles, where population growth is predicted to increase. Traffic management becomes the priority, explained Metro Project Manager Geraldo Alvarez.
"Our overall goal is to better manage traffic flow at this terminus," Alvarez said.
According to the project goals outlined on Metro's website, Echo Park residents can hope for better traffic circulation, increased pedestrian safety, more open space and improved air quality upon completion of the project.
Initially, Metro came up with five different plans (dubbed alternatives A-F) to address these issues. After gathering community feedback, Metro adopted Hybrid Alternative F, otherwise known as the locally preferred alternative. While Alternative F incorporates features from all five of the original designs, it also purports to include elements in response to local residential concerns.
The most radical addition is for a proposed left-lane off-ramp from SR-2 onto Glendale Boulevard heading north. Additionally, there will be two dedicated lanes from SR-2 onto southbound Glendale Boulevard; currently they merge into one lane.
Community members learned details of Alternative F at a meeting on November 30. Although this plan is labeled locally preferred by Metro, not all Echo Park residents are convinced that the proposed design will address community needs.
While it may streamline traffic, the finalized design does little to encourage alternative modes of transportation, such as biking or public transit. Nor does it maximize potential for open space, opponents say.
Residents set a precedent more than 50 years ago when construction of the original SR-2 thoroughfare was halted due to community opposition. The complete build-out was to connect with the 101 Freeway and ultimately through to Beverly Hills to the 405 Freeway. But as resident Michael O’Brien pointed out, “We defeated the Beverly Hills Freeway, and by-gum we’ll defeat this too.”
Last year the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council endorsed design Alternative D which allowed for increased public open space and enhanced pedestrian and bicycle safety. The current plan provides less open space and allows greater potential for residential cut-through traffic. Neighbors are left wondering if a major build-out is worthwhile if community concerns are not adequately met.
According to Jose Sigala, President of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council, "The majority of community members who attended the meeting, given the information presented, think that perhaps a no-build alternative, which focuses on pedestrian access and safety enhancements, would be the best alternative."
Project funding originated with a $12 million federal transportation grant. None of the five original designs put forward by Metro come within this budget. $3 million has already been spent on beginning stages of the project.
Going forward with Alternative F, estimated to cost $18.4 million, leaves a shortfall of $9.4 million. Even Alternative A, the most basic no-build plan, was estimated to cost $13.2 million. Open space improvements are estimated at an additional $5 million, according to Metro.
Metro will again consult with community members as they and CalTrans move forward with construction sequencing and planning of traffic management during construction. Delays and re-routing should be anticipated during the estimated 15 months of construction.
Metro's timeline projects a final construction contract in place by the end of 2011, with groundbreaking slated for early 2012. Barring any unforeseen delays, and subject to the acquisition of additional funding, Echo Park can expect work to be completed on the SR-2 terminus by June of 2013.