What Can Be Learned from the Hyperion Bridge Story in Today’s Los Angeles Times

Someone uploaded Sahra Sulaiman's story on this project to the ##http://www.lamayor.org/jim_rh/an_opprotunity_for_lasting_benefits_to_our_city##Mayor's "suggestion page."## Cool.
Someone uploaded Sahra Sulaiman’s story on this project to the ##http://www.lamayor.org/jim_rh/an_opprotunity_for_lasting_benefits_to_our_city##Mayor’s “suggestion page.”## Cool. Image: Sahra Sulaiman

It’s an encouraging sign that Streetsblog readers have come to expect high quality coverage of Livable Streets issues in the region’s flagship paper. Today’s piece in the Los Angeles Times by Laura Nelson on the Hyperion and Glendale Bridge seismic retrofit and redesigns has a couple of news bits that you won’t find in Streetsblog’s exhaustive coverage of the issue.

Here’s some new news in the piece:

1) A road diet is on the table. – There’s been some debate among the informal working group on whether or not a road diet would in effect kill the project, retro-fit and all. When a bridge has fewer mixed-use travel lanes than the amount of lanes that feed into it, it is considered functionally obsolete by federal standards. Any project which made a bridge functionally obsolete, requires a full environmental study. Such a study is impossible under the existing project timeline.

The city announced it was asking the federal government, who funds the project, for an extension. Apparently, this puts the road diet back on the table. Per Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell:

O’Farrell said he hopes the needs of pedestrians and cyclists can be met without losing a lane of traffic. Congestion is bad enough during rush hour, he said, that losing a lane could create bottlenecks on the bridge.

It may not be the Councilmember’s preferred design, but it is a possibility.

2) Everyone admits that traffic is too fast on the bridge – O’Farrell gives anecdotal evidence that he sees cars speeding on the bridge frequently. The Bureau of Engineering is considering options to slow traffic including a small road diet, one where existing lanes are narrowed, and speed monitors. Everyone agrees, car speed on the bridge is a problem.

3) The advisory committee will be given more than one option to discuss – This isn’t directly from the story, but from a Facebook thread on the story.

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The value of a citizen’s advisory committee mainly depends on how seriously the people on the committee are taken by the decision makers. That they don’t plan on showing the committee the same presentation we saw in October and asking for comments is a good sign.

4) Mitch O’Farrell said something dumb – I know better than to judge someone based on a quote in a news story. People get misquoted or something sounds good coming out of the mouth and looks stupid on the page. I get that. But since this quote is already getting some heat on social media, and Nelson has a good reputation for getting stories right. Here’s the quote:

“As much as we love to think that everyone will get on their bikes or walk places, the vast majority of people will still be driving,” O’Farrell said. “I don’t want to force people out of their cars if there isn’t an infrastructure there to catch them.”

There’s a lot wrong with these couple of sentences. First, nobody is trying to “force people out of their cars.” What people are trying to do on Hyperion is not force people into their cars, if the people have that option. The October public hearing was packed with people lamenting their decision to drive across the bridge because they feel unsafe walking or bicycling.

The city needs to give those people a better option. That’s what all the hulabaloo about this seismic retrofit is about, making people feel safe and giving them options. Not taking one of the options away.

Update: Even O’Farrell thinks the quote is dumb.

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  • patrick

    The writer repeatedly demonstrates a lack of knowledge on the subject. By rhetorically asking “how and when drivers
    should share the road”, she ignores existing law. Would she ask how and when drivers should observe alcohol limits? The writer refers to “three links between Atwater and Silverlake.” I know of only two–Fletcher & Hyperion and neither is safe for peds or cyclists. Lastly, the author mentions “politicians… support for some design changes.” without noting the recent DOT video where politicians promoted the very design now being rejected.

  • don

    Los Feliz blvd is the 3rd. there is also Glendale blvd which leads to
    the bridge just below the Hyperion deck, but is even more hectic to ride
    and get to than hyperion itself…

  • patrick

    You are right about Glendale Blvd, but it is sort of half an alternative as the Atwater terminus is the same. Strictly speaking, Los Feliz Blvd connects Atwater with Los Feliz. Not one of these four routes is remotely safe.

  • Don Ward

    I’m still waiting for Mitch O’Farrel to really show an understanding and compassion for people choosing NOT to drive a car or whom simply cant afford a car…. Bringing up that foot bridge is something that Mitch brought up to me the very first time that I made public comment about Hyperion and I explained to him that day that the footbridge, while GREAT and applauded, is still not a viable substitute for the hyperion bridge deck. WHY oh WHY is it still being brought up? I dont know… Probably for the same reason that Tom LaBonge INSISTS that the bridge is a “truck route” and therefore nothing can be done… Because they are committed to getting this off their plates…

    This is a 100 years bridge though. what we do now will affect the character of Silver Lake for the next 100 years. Keeping Hyperion at its current capacity and making it friendly for kids and walkers and cyclists? That will protect silver Lake as a community. Continuing to push for this to be a “truck route” and reduce pedestrian access? That is not good for the community.

    But here is the other reality. The BOE’ s OWN IA-ES document (page 103 If I’m not mistaken) has traffic study data that claims that a road diet would present no impact for an 11 month period. If surveyed speeds are 55mph average then there is a traffic density problem. If people can speed that fast on average then the road is TOO BIG for this area and can be shrunk.

    I really hope that we can look at a partial road diet option of 2 lane uphill (so fast can pass slow) and a 1 lane downhill (so that cars are discouraged from speeding) on the committee. This would provide enough space for ADA compliant sidewalks the length of the bridge, and plenty wide bike lanes the length of the bridge. it would also provide a buffer between uphill and downhill car traffic of 2-4 feet.

    I’ve been presenting this compromise plan for over a month now and I’m pretty convinced it is the right solution… As a member of the committee however, I will keep an open mind.

  • Accommodate the traffic = encourage more traffic.
    Ignore the traffic = more people prefer not to drive = win.

  • rickrise

    Mr. O’Farrell: Of course the “vast majority” of people will choose to drive if you make cycling or walking hideously unpleasant and actively dangerous. The current bridge, as Damien implies, forces people into cars even when they don’t want to drive; it effectively filters out cyclists and walkers. The Red Car MUP bridge requires a long detour by people who are powering their own motion; it will not serve the communities on either side of the bridge well.

    We need the direct route across the river and freeway (and over the bluff and Riverside Dr) that the bridge provides, and it MUST accommodate all users without favoring drivers uber alles.

    The current lanes can be narrowed to provide space for bike lanes everywhere except perhaps under the Waverly overpass, where sharrows could be placed if necessary. The current sidewalks can be improved. There MUST be traffic control at the Atwater end of the bridge to reduce the extreme danger cyclists and pedestrians face there. Speed limits must be lowered, and speed controlled by structural interventions such as narrower lanes, not only to create a safe bridge but to ensure the the streets leading to and from it do not become speedways themselves as drivers carry the “message” of a high-speed bridge into the neighborhoods that it is supposed to serve.

  • Don

    With all due respect Rick, Sharrows are not acceptible for this project. I didnt fight this hard to get wimpy excuses for bike infra. We deserve bike lanes and the traffic study shows we can get it. There are blind curves on that bridge. A sharrow would encourage a few brave souls to do what they do now, to mix it up with speeding drivers many of whom will not take the blind curve at reasonable speeds.

    Its time to go for the gold. A road diet IS feasible and its reasonable according to the BOE own traffic study.

  • rickrise

    Don, I agree with you about sharrows in general. I meant just as an expedient through the Waverly underpass, if we can’t get a road diet. I definitely agree with you that the present road speeds show that the road is overdesigned for the amount of traffic it sees.

    However, previously LADOT engineers told me that bike lanes were out because they “wouldn’t fit” under Waverly, and sharrows were (at that time) not permitted except next to full time curbside parking. That is no longer true, so we can hold sharrows in reserve in case we can’t get a road diet, which would of course be most appropriate.

    I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Waverly underpass couldn’t be widened despite the present claims that that is impossible. Use the money saved by not designing, building, and installing high-speed crash barriers on a low-speed community bridge!

  • don

    Rick my friend, we are at where we are at because we refused to accept the excuse. Waverly doesnt need to be widened. We dont need to accept a 4 lane design. We CAN get a road diet because its reasonable, the traffic studies show its feasible and the community including 14 area NC’s have signed on to explore it. Its time to stop selling ourselves short.

  • rickrise

    The fly in the ointment is that (apparently) the Federal funding requires that traffic capacity not be reduced. (This is what I’ve heard, but have not verified.) This would be difficult to overcome because, even if the bridge is currently underutilized, it has the capacity it has.

    Then again, I heard that from LADOT, so it’s suspect.

    In any case, I agree that the road diet should be our first goal, and I am with you all the way. Any way I can help, I will.

  • Don

    Rick, my friend, unless you or your source have a copy of the regulations and can cite chapter and verse as to why its not possible then its really just speculation. I will be expecting no less than chapter and verse citation when excuses are given at the committee.

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The City of Los Angeles is moving plans to replace the Glendale Boulevard-Hyperion Avenue Complex of Bridges over the Los Angeles River near Hollywood and Atwater Village. You can read the full EIR, here. The Glendale-Hyperion Viaduct complex consists of the following structures:  Hyperion Avenue Bridge over the Los Angeles River, Hyperion Avenue Bridge over Riverside Drive, […]