West Hollywood Shows Us How to Use Stimulus Funds to Make a Difference

1_5_09_sunset.jpgFirst up for improvements: a before shot of Sunset Plaza. Photo: LA Streetsblog/Flickr

Not every transportation reform project needs to bring visionary change to a city to be a good project.  Case in point, the beutficiation project recently started on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.  Instead of just repaving the road, as is done so often on the streets of Los Angeles, West Hollywood is taking the extra step to also plant trees, fix the sidewalks and improve the crosswalks.  In West Hollywood, a repaving is a reason to re-examine whether or not to re-imagine a street.

So what are West Hollwood's plans for Sunset Boulevard?  According to the project's website:

Despite the length of time since the Sunset Strip has received any serious roadway improvement, the road is basically in good structural condition. Construction will start on January 4, 2010. The Sunset Strip Beautification Project will include the following improvements:

  • Pavement resurfacing;
  • Replacing damaged sidewalks;
  • Improving roadway and crosswalk markings;
  • Upgrading traffic signal equipment; and
  • Planting street trees.

More importantly than just the improvements that are taking place are the reasons behind them.  West Hollywood has made no secret of the fact that the city hopes the project will re-enliven and bolster the local economy.  Instead of focusing on subsidizing parking through more on-street parking, West Hollywood recognizes that people visit restaurants and shops along attractive boulevards.  Their cars are just a method to get there and don't need to be catered to individually as much as the actual people do.

Now it's time for a confession.  i've never walked the Sunset Strip before yesterday.  As I wandered down the street, I noticed the work crews out surveying the street and that the asphalt was covered with red and white writings and symbols; but I also noticed that despite the wide sidewalks, the area isn't a great one to walk through.  On the plus side, the sidewalks were wide and there were plenty of crosswalks.  The road also featured plenty of nice shops and restarants.  In short, it was the kinds of place that you would love to visit. 

On the other hand, there was so much traffic that it was difficult to hold a conversation.  Hopefully the trees and decorations that are part of the project will be more than just decorative.  A traffic calming impact, and a sound barrier for the shoppers and eaters they are hoping to attract are in the mix as well.

The total cost of the project is $5.4 million.  Over 20% of the project will be reimbursed from American Recovery and Reinvestment aka "Stimulus" funds.  For more details on the project, read the official fact sheet.