Homeowners Rail Against 405 Expansion

3_5_09_schwarzenegger.jpgA bi-partisan collection of officials celebrate the destruction of air quality around Encino

The Daily News printed a rare opinion piece yesterday that dared challenge the orthodoxy that adding lane capacity to the 405 is somehow going to improve quality of life for the people living near the widening area in Encino.  The I-405 widening project is one that the city hopes will receive stimulus funds and they have long argued that by encouraging carpooling you can better manage car growth because more people per car will lead to less cars.  Thus far, there has never been a study that has shown this to happen, but there is plenty of evidence that wider highways lead to more cars.

In the Daily News, Gerald A. Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino, argues that the city and state are dead wrong.  Instead of improving the environment, a wider 405 will lead to worse air quality and poor health for those living near it.

It is not reasonable to expect that residents
living near the freeways should now be subjected to freeway expansion
causing more noise, congestion, glare and air pollution for the
convenience of commuters. At what point is enough is enough? After the
405 Freeway is widened, and later winds up with the same congested
lanes, will people still say want to keep expanding and add even more
car-pool lanes?

People who live near the 405 Freeway are affected
by increased lung cancer rates due to automobile exhaust. Do drivers
think it is OK to subject people to increased cancer rates for their
commuting convenience? 

Oh, lung cancer, shmung cancer.  People need to get home and they deserve a wide freeway!

All sarcasm aside, the problem with Silver’s argument, is that California transportation officials still argue that increasing highway capacity is actually good for the environment.  The argument goes that more pollution is caused by cars sitting in congestion than cars moving quickly through less congested highways.  The idea that there is a latent demand to drive and that the wider highway will bring out more cars isn’t something that California Highway officials recognize.

In other words, while Silver lives in reality and is going to have to live with the increased pollution a wider 405 will bring to Encino; highway officials and politicians can dismiss that argument because they still believe that wider highways are the environmentally sound way to build a transportation network.

Photo: Congressman Brad Sherman

25 thoughts on Homeowners Rail Against 405 Expansion

  1. Good. Just wrote a comment on that editorial. It seems to me that the commenting readership of the Daily News has a much more conservative anti-transit bias than the L.A. times (where the comments seem more balanced or even a little left-leaning). So hopefully exposing that readership to the idea that widening freeways isn’t necessarily the right step will get some attention.

  2. “It is not reasonable to expect that residents living near Metro Rail lines should now be subjected to rail expansion causing more noise, congestion and glare for the convenience of commuters. At what point is enough is enough? After the Expo Line is built, and later we wind up with the same congested streets, will people still say want to keep expanding and add even more trains?”

    Fixed.

  3. This particular highway expansion project is actually a good one. Having an HOV network is important for the region. Right now, however, the Sepulveda Pass is home to a glaring hole in the system. With the under-construction I-5/CA-14 HOV direct connectors and the proposed I-5/I-405 HOV direct connectors, HOV continuity along the I-405 will become even more important.

    This particular project is actually GOOD for the environment. Not only will it encourage carpooling by uniting disparate HOV systems in the SFV and the Westside, it will also allow for reliable Sepulveda Pass express bus options that many have been hoping for.

  4. This is certainly a step forward, but it’s also a little scary that it takes the threat of lung cancer for people to start opposing freeway expansion. I also have the sinking feeling that if anyone ever tries to build a light rail line through the area, the Homeowners of Encino will be just as angry.

  5. In my mind, it will be good ONLY if they make it 3+, like the El Monte Busway, or a HOT lane. I’ve taken the 405 South between LAX and the 605… on Thurs and Fridays, there is almost no time savings in the carpool lane.

  6. “I also have the sinking feeling that if anyone ever tries to build a light rail line through the area, the Homeowners of Encino will be just as angry.”

    Exactly. They will grasp at straws to oppose any project, rail or freeway. So it’s confusing why this blog is suddenly rallying around the opponents of a freeway widening. They would just as quickly turn on mass transit.

  7. “I also have the sinking feeling that if anyone ever tries to build a light rail line through the area, the Homeowners of Encino will be just as angry.”
    —————

    There are many Los Angelenos longing for Sam Yorty’s Los Angeles who really need a time machine more than anything in the real world.

    Why don’t we offer a choice? You can widen the 405 or we can get started on a Sepulveda LRT between Sylar and LAX? The option not on the table is neither.

  8. Suddenly? I would always side with opponents of freeway widening whether or not they’re HOV Lanes or not.

    The good news is that if they’re taking federal dollars the carpool has to be three per car. Only California considers a parent taking one child to soccer practice a carpool.

  9. “Suddenly? I would always side with opponents of freeway widening whether or not they’re HOV Lanes or not.”

    I think most would agree that always opposing freeway widening projects would be exactly as silly as supporting EVERY rail proposal.

  10. Projects should be built based on merit and transportation need. Like it or not, road capacity is still a need. While I want to see equal attention given to rail, that doesn’t mean you neglect highways. The 405 is one of the busiest and most congested freeways in the world.

    Mass transit should be attractive based on its own merits, not just because traffic is awful. Rail should be built to be as quick and efficient as possible. If a train stops at intersections it makes the line much less attractive to a driver. He’ll ask, “What’s the point?” and return to his car.

    Go lobby for a half-assed light rail alternative to the 405 instead of a freeway widening. Traffic will still be awful on the 405 and the transit riders will still be depressed.

  11. “Projects should be built based on merit and transportation need. Like it or not, road capacity is still a need.”
    —————-

    I agree with this actually. The 710 Freeway needs to be fixed at both ends and will require a road solution.

    My point is more about NIMBYs in general who think that they can halt any and all transportation improvements. Measure R has funds for a Sepulveda project. Eventually SOMETHING will be built through Encino. Encino residents might want to get proactive so that what is built is something friendlier to them. If they take a “just say no” attitude, they may end up with something rammed down their throats that they really don’t like.

  12. I think most would agree that always opposing freeway widening projects would be exactly as silly as supporting EVERY rail proposal.
    ———-
    I’m sure you’re right. “Most” would. But “most” Californians voted for Schwarzenegger believing he was a Green Governor. I don’t think that’s true either.

    Adding freeway lanes to battle congestion is like fighting obesity by buying larger pants.

  13. “Adding freeway lanes to battle congestion is like fighting obesity by buying larger pants.”

    In many cases, yes. There is a decreased marginal benefit to adding a lane to an already congested freeway with each lane you add. I don’t know if the 405 has reached a point of no return, so to speak. But it’s worth studying.

    But I would lobby for carpool lanes that only allow 3 or more passengers per vehicle during rush hour. I would lobby Metro to utilize those lanes for express bus services, the kind you see on I-10.

    Then say, “Hey, we’ll lighten up on the opposition to this freeway if we can get a north-south rail alternative to the 405 going…” Why wouldn’t compromise like that work?

  14. Spokker, I’d be happy with a carpool lane that requires 2 ADULTS. I like your idea of 3 adults, but 2 adults would be a step in the right direction.

  15. We all know if they widen the 405 it will eventually just lead to more traffic. Come on and think about it. For all those folks that have been living in SoCal all their lives can tell, when the freeway gets widen, it flow a little bit faster for a while and then its back to the same ol’. Widening the 405 isn’t going to do anything but make traffic on that freeway worst and the community it will go through. LA does need more rail lines, but not every where, only in the denser older areas. What LA really needs is denser land usage. We drive because everything is so far. For crying out loud, people have to drive to Starbucks in some areas. My sentence is the real reason traffic is bad in LA and SoCal. Oh, by the way what is Spoker talking about??? I thought this article was about the 405.

    -Paul

  16. So if someone becomes Kramer and decides to put paint thinner over the lane lines (“The Pothole”), does that mean that traffic congestion decreases? This is complete garbage. I agree that spending millions of dollars to accommodate four or five hours of peak hour traffic is probably not a good idea, but excess congestion will just end up choking an economy. Either you give people real alternatives, preferably ones that run on their own right of way, or you can shrivel up and not function as a community. After all, Detroit has no congestion, and you can buy a (single family!) house for $7,000.

    LA does NOT need denser land usage. Density could be increased in some areas, but more density often just brings more cars parked on the street and more traffic. During the housing boom, perfectly functional single family neighborhoods were being ripped out in the Valley and turned into condos. Now they are low income housing and foreclosures. We need to think smarter, not taller.

  17. And sometimes you get ugly Soviet style apartment blocks, or worse yet, half built shells, worsening residential neighborhoods. This is what happened to Monterey Park in the 80’s and Rosemead today. Go outside the bubble and look at the San Gabriel Valley for how bad dense development has ruined communities.

  18. Why not build rail up the center of the 405?

    We have a desperate bottleneck along this route, and rail is orders of magnitude more dense than freeway lanes. We also need to connect several extant or emerging East-West rail lines (Expo, Subway to Sea, Green Line) which have no North-South connection West of downtown. It’s also politically next to impossible to acquire new rights of way. In my mind, these three problems cry out for a 405 rail.

    Stations could be elevated, underpassed, or situated off the freeway in order to moderate the noise and pollution.

    Aren’t we spending around $1 billion to accommodate those HOV lanes? The Green Line (down the center of the 105) cost less than $1 billion, and is 17 miles long.

    Many key destinations are right near the 405 from the LAX Green Line station on North all the way to the 101, where it could turn right and hook up with the Red Line in North Hollywood. Loop Complete.

  19. “I also have the sinking feeling that if anyone ever tries to build a light rail line through the area, the Homeowners of Encino will be just as angry.”

    Absolutely. The modus operandi of neighborhood associations in our region generally is NIMBY opposition to everything. William Fulton in the Reluctant Metropolis discusses how these kind of groups have shaped our built landscape. Sherman Oaks, Los Feliz and Miracle Mile are examples of areas with very organized associations of this type, able to flood a public hearing with residents declaiming that “[fill in the blank] will ruin our neighborhood”. They get quoted in the media (e.g. the aforementioned Mr. Close or Richard H. Close of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Association) and often have to means to make bureaucracies blink. Bloggers often carelessly talk of storming city hall or undertaking a ballot measure or mounting an effort to pass legislation. It is mostly big talk. But these uber activist/homeowner bigwig types are the real deal. Close, for instance, played a key role in the passage of Proposition 13 and the recent new charter for the city of Los Angeles, as outlined in his biography posted on the website of the law firm he works at:

    http://www.gilchristrutter.com/Bio/RichardClose.asp

    These are formidable opinion leaders, and have influence even though their motives are often self-serving and/or derived from knee-jerk impulses. Unlike us ordinary folks, their op-eds don’t languish or end up only being posted online. :-(

  20. “Unlike us ordinary folks, their op-eds don’t languish or end up only being posted online. :-(”

    I think that’s up to us. Some friends and I have mounted a campaign of large freeway sign postings, and we will be literally driving traffic to a web site to promote rail in Los Angeles by harnessing road rage into political action. In particular I’m interested in rail on or parallel to the 405, and integration with bike paths.

    Suggestions?

  21. Putting a rail project along the 405 would be fantastic, but I think it’s just not high enough in priority for us to expect to see anything within the next decade. There’s some money in Measure R for a “sepulveda project”, but it’s a small amount and will probably just cover doing a study to see what mode would work best there.

  22. “Putting a rail project along the 405 would be fantastic, but I think it’s just not high enough in priority for us to expect to see anything within the next decade.”

    Do you think priorities can ever change, if they are demanded?

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