For Universal City, It’s a Bridge Not Far Enough

The proposed bridge design serves all three corners of the intersection of Lankershim Boulevard and Campo de Cahuenga. Of course, the intersection has four corners.

As the local media focuses on this morning’s hearing on the NBC Universal Evolution project, there’s another project that impacts the area. The proposed pedestrian bridge crossing Lankershim Boulevard and Campo de Cahuenga as part of an eighteen year old Memorandum of Understanding will cost $19 million, but questions remain on whether the bridge is even a good idea.

Because of the proximity of both a Red Line rail station and a major bus terminal across the street from Universal’s City Walk and Universal Studios, this intersection would be a natural one to create a world-class intersection, with safe crossings and street-level food and retail options. Instead, NBC Universal is forcing Metro to build a costly pedestrian bridge to, in the words of the agency, “prevent pedestrian crossing Lankershim.”

With the spotlight on NBC Universal, advocates are stepping up calls to scrap the pedestrian bridge in favor of something that could reduce congestion and create a better environment for pedestrians.

“With NBC Universal asking Los Angeles city and county elected officials to approve its huge project, our elected officials should require as a condition of approval that NBC Universal drop its demand to force Metro to spend $19 million on a bridge that no one else wants,” said Faramarz Nabavi, a San Fernando Valley pedestrian and transit advocate. 

So what could be done with the $19 million that Metro owes as part of the MOU? Nabavi points out that bus service in the San Fernando Valley used to be much heavier than it is today, however recent service cuts have reduced the number of buses on the route. Nabavi calculates that Metro could add an additional 30 hours of bus service to serve Universal every day for the next thirty years with the same money used for the pedestrian bridge.

If pedestrian safety really is the chief concern, $19 million could pay for making hundreds intersections much safer for pedestrians through better signage, overhead signals, and crosswalks.

“There is a real risk that Valley residents might not vote to extend the transit sales tax this November if they see this type of waste of taxpayer dollars,” adds Nabavi.  ”Metro’s own polling already suggests that Valley is one of the regions of the county that is least likely to support the tax extension.”

To add insult to injury, Metro continues to claim that the bridge “[f]acilitates access to all 3 corners of Lankershim and Campo de Cahuenga intersection.” Of course, the intersection of Lankershim and  Campo Cahuenga has four corners.

The local bus terminal, with thousands of daily passengers, is on the fourth (southwest) corner of the intersection not touched by the bridge. Metro bus passengers going east-west across the Valley need to cross both Campo de Cahuenga and Lankershim to transfer to Line 155 (Burbank/Toluca Lake) from the buses that come from the west on Ventura Boulevard. Even as Metro and NBC Universal tour their concern for pedestrian safety, their ignoring the safety of many of Metro’s customers.