Route 66 As A Complete Street? Claremont Is Planning On It

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Before and after: planned new bicycle lanes and bioswales for a portion of Claremont’s Foothill Blvd

Immortalized by John Steinbeck as “The Mother Road,” the decommissioned Route 66, now known as Foothill Boulevard in East Los Angeles cities La Verne and Claremont, often draws nostalgic visions of America’s golden age of the automobiles. First established in 1926, Route 66’s creation marked the development of transcontinental highway systems in mid-century America.

As one might expect, much of Route 66’s bordering development in eastern Los Angeles County reflects the automobile-centric planning logic of a bygone era. Auto-centric strip malls, restaurants, and services still surround intimidatingly wide Foothill Boulevard and serve as a reminder that Southern California still has a ways to go to overcome its overwhelming dependence on automobiles.

However, a recently approved $9.7 million complete-street project proposal in Claremont challenges the car centered-design of Foothill Boulevard, the former Route 66.

Approved in October of 2015, Claremont’s Foothill Boulevard Improvement Project aims to improve the street’s accessibility, safety, and multi-modal additions with a complete-street approach to road planning.

The highlighted section here is the total area of Claremont's Foothill Improvement Project proposal
The highlighted section here is the total length of Claremont’s Foothill Improvement Project proposal

Currently, Claremont’s section of Foothill Boulevard features dated Route 66 size proportions, including travel lane widths ranging from 17-23 feet. Typical surface street lanes would be 10-11 feet wide. Foothill’s unholy combination of over-sized lanes and absence of multi-modal transit features creates an intimidating atmosphere for pedestrians and cyclist. In addition to their impractical width, these Route-66 era lane widths, Claremont Senior Planner Chris Veirs noted, provoke faster driving speeds through speed creep and endanger all users of the road. In response, the Foothill Improvement Project calls for a series of “road dieting” measures and complete-street accommodations. 

An overview of suggested improvements to Foothill's east section. A protected bicycle lane is included as a potential proposal, thanks to the Foothill's wide lanes
An overview of suggested improvements to Foothill’s east section. A protected bicycle lane is included as a potential proposal, thanks to the Foothill’s wide lanes. Source: City of Claremont

The fifteen-year project includes most of its major additions in the near term of 1-3 years in the corridor-phasing plan. Street improvements include, most notably, restriping with a road-diet, adding bicycle lanes across the entire length of Foothill, sidewalk bulb outs, and rain water bioswales. These pedestrian and cyclist-friendly improvements, Veirs explained, draws upon Claremont’s General Plan and Bicycle Plans goals to create a livable, mobile city more friendly to pedestrians, bicyclists and businesses. Foothill is bordered by popular businesses such as Trader Joes and Sprouts in addition to other major local institutions, such as the Claremont School of Theology and the Claremont Colleges.

Not all improvements, however, were warmly welcomed by nearby residents.

A staff-proposed sidewalk addition from N Mountain Avenue to Berkeley Avenue (area pictured below) was disputed by some neighborhood residents. Residents expressed the fear that a sidewalk addition bordering their properties would inhibit the privacy and safety of their neighborhood. Opposition included a 101-signature petition against sidewalk construction from Mountain to Berkeley. In response, the city council proceeded with an alternative staff plan without sidewalk construction along south side of the central portion of the project.

Many locally popular commercial businesses and strip malls border the proposed bicycle lane additions. Source: City of Claremont

The initiative to improve Foothill’s accessibility arose after Caltrans relinquished control of Foothill Boulevard to Claremont in 2012. This followed years of negotiation. Foothill was afflicted with bureaucratic state highway management and its lagging repair times. As part of the agreement, Caltrans gave Claremont $5.7 million for repairs and infrastructural updates to bring the road up to Caltrans standards. Thus the Foothill Improvement Project was born. Most of acquired funding for the Phase I plan is from Foothill relinquishment fund, supplemented by a Mobile Source Air Reduction Grant (MSRC) and a college developer fee.

While complete-street improvements to Claremont’s Foothill Blvd appear limited in geographic scope when compared to L.A. County, efforts to re-design former state routes invite optimism for bicycle and pedestrian advocates. It is important progress that a former segment of Route 66, the road most associated with America’s golden age of automobiles and transnational highways, will soon share space with cyclists and pedestrians as a complete street.

For the complete city of Claremont Foothill Boulevard Improvements designs, click here.

SBLA coverage of San Gabriel Valley livability is supported by Foothill Transit. Foothill Transit has been a leader in sustainable transportation for years. And now they’re committed to having a 100% electric bus fleet by 2030. To celebrate, Foothill Transit is giving away prizes and sharing facts about how their electric buses help clear the air. Visit Foothill Transit’s e-bus sweepstakes webpage to see how you can join in the eco-friendly fun!

 

 

  • The NIMBYs who bought houses next to a state highway ROW and could very well have ended up with what is now the Foothill Freeway (SR210) running behind their houses, objected in a most AstroTurf-roots manner to a sidewalk. Now cyclists will have to contend with Salmon joggers running in the painted bicycle lane (which I hope cannot be used as car storage as is allowed on Baseline in Claremont).

    Let’s hope Claremont ups its liability coverage for the bicycle-jogger collisions these NIMBYs will be creating, and provides for a signed ADA-alternative path infront of the NIMBY houses lest it remain open to an open-and-shut lawsuit.

  • M

    I would have loved bicycle infrastructure like that while I was attending one of the Claremont Colleges. As someone that grew up in a much less populated area, I was extremely overwhelmed by biking on the streets in Claremont as a student. Instead I ended up walking everywhere, even if the sidewalks were lacking at times.

    Hopefully the residents in the area will see the value in reducing the risk of people being killed or injured outside of their homes and stop fighting what looks like a pretty nice design that helps encourage people walking and biking and more human scaled. I suspect there’s a great deal of support from the colleges (Mudd even had a class recently that had to do with getting people out on their bikes to experience the challenges of creating bike friendly cities), but I know college students are a little bit of an interesting population since they don’t tend to stick in a given area very long even if the school as an entity supports the project….

  • Or better yet, shift the liability to all 101 of the people who signed that petition.

  • Sirinya Matute

    I’m looking forward to the enhancements that are forthcoming on Foothill. These improvements will make it much more appealing and less risky to traverse this area, particularly on a bicycle. I would love to see Claremont road diet other major corridors that seem excessively wide, like Mills Avenue, too (Mills has a bike lane but traveling in it seems only for the faint of heart. I have not done it, but my friend Niall has. The things we will do to visit our friends and family…)

    That said, I’m stunned that the city decided to just not build a sidewalk on the south side of Foothill between Mountain and Berkeley. Stunned. But without knowing the dynamics of that situation, I will simply sit on the sidelines and struggle to understand why they and Council gave up. This is embarrassing and incredibly disappointing. Outside of the Village and the college streets to the north, walking in Claremont is treacherous and feels like an act of defiance.

  • davistrain

    Streetsblog is the only place I’ve ever seen where “parking” is called “car storage.” To most of us, “car storage” refers to the enclosed land in industrial areas where “future project cars”, “off season RVs” and small boats are kept.

  • Well, try putting a clothes washer in the Baseline bike lanes and see how long it stays there. “Parking” what then?

  • calwatch

    That’s a little extreme. “Treacherous”? I grew up in Pomona, the next town away from Claremont, and walked the streets of south Claremont somewhat regularly. Claremont’s streets are generally pleasant to walk down, even its arterials like Indian Hill and Arrow Highway. They are generally tree lined and are set back from the roadway by a parkway strip, unlike some of the newer suburban communities which put the sidewalk next to the curb. There should be a sidewalk on the south side of Foothill, but without that people will end up walking in the bike lane instead, which may or may not be desirable but is at least protected.

  • Sirinya Matute

    Hey there. By saying that my words — treacherous — was extreme, you are discount me and my sharing how unsafe I feel. Please don’t do that again. I ignored this comment for several days because just seeing that you tried to characterize me as being ‘extreme’–basically saying you felt I was exaggerating and wrong–also made me feel defeated. It made me feel like I should not share those sentiments. This is problematic. If other people had spoken up like this, then maybe the Council would have had the political will not to back down.

    Outside of the Village area, I do not feel very safe walking on the sidewalks. The streets in many neighborhoods (at least north of Foothill) are very wide, as are the thoroughfares (Mills, Towne, Mountain, Indian Hill, Baseline). The speed limit in the residential neighborhoods are 25mph, but because of the road geometry, motorists often speed. And the speed limit on streets like Foothill and Mills is 40 miles an hour, which is pretty fast. You have to watch out more aggressively when walking as a result. I am also often out with a stroller, and the absence of sidewalks on some of Claremont streets is now a very serious issue for me.

    Furthermore, there is no parkway between the sidewalks and the streets in many of north Claremont’s neighborhoods. Claremont also prohibits overnight parking, so often times, there are no cars parked on the streets at all. The presence of cars on the street serves as a buffer to slow travel speeds. The absence of the cars further makes me nervous. I have not spent much time walking in south Claremont so I cannot speak to this. But the issues with speeding remain in that area too.

  • Dana

    But aren’t you erasing the opinions of those 100+ residents, including myself, who did not want the city to remove shrubs and trees that Claremont the nice city it is? Aren’t you defeating yourself? It’s not like there’s any entrances adjacent to the wall. The other side of the street gets much more pleasant and residents don’t have to deal with people peering over their short fences.

    There was a master plan process. The residents have spoken. Walking in Claremont is going to be a lot better in a couple of years.

    Calwatch, stop being so politically correct and call it for what it is… hysterical. Although to be honest maybe you shouldn’t talk about what you don’t know either, and what the residents of this city clearly don’t want.

  • Sirinya Matute

    Haaaa… I admit I am also in the habit of calling parking ‘car storage’ too.

  • There was a planning process that was hijacked at the end by NIMBYs, not residents. Not all those “100+” signatories intended to block the sidewalk. The shrubs are obviously used for encampments now so are one brush fire away from being removed, and the city offered to raise the height of those walls. The other side of the street might be viable if the same NIMBYs had not also prevented a crossing between Indian Hill and Towne, and if the city traffic engineer was not so adverse to new alternative pedestrian crossing technologies that have recently been approved by the Federal Government. If anything the city has adopted an strong anti-pedestrian facility attitude in the past decade, removing crosswalks, and blocking desire lines, while insisting on citing the infamous Bruce Herms study or dated LADOT studies from the 1980s rather than modern actual research by Charlie Zegeer at UNC for the USDOT.

    P.S. You are ignoring the opening to Cambridge at Foothill that could have created another route for walking or accessing the bike facilities on Foothill.

  • Dana

    You don’t get to dismiss and erase the opinions of people you don’t like by calling them NIMBYs. If you read the Claremont Courier article, the residents have been making their opinions known for some time. This was not new to city employees. We want a well landscaped street that accommodates pedestrians – this plan does that, on the north side, adding a couple of minutes while improving safety for everyone by concentrating them on the side where there are businesses.

    Walking is by no means in Claremont “treacherous” as in presenting hidden or unavoidable dangers, the dictionary definition. Most Claremont streets have sidewalks, and all of the major ones to. Many of them have the grass strips. Cars don’t jump curbs. The master plan is a great improvement to walking and what some people want is the perfect as the enemy of the good.

  • “It’s not like there’s any entrances adjacent to the wall.” This seems a bit short-sighted as there are systematic things going on that a sidewalk would enable. I own a house that is right up against the segment without a sidewalk.

    Things I see everyday:
    – people biking in the bike lane
    – people walking or running in the bike lane

    Things I see frequently:
    – emergency vehicles stopped in the bike lane
    – emergency officials forced out into the street to do operations rather than being able to operate from the sidewalk
    – utility vehicles and officials dealing with the same things as above

    One could say that you should divert to 12th street as a pedestrian since it has a sidewalk but then the sidewalk on 12th street for the same segment lacks ramps for just about all of it so it is not a pleasant walking experience (just navigating it with a stroller alone is frustrating so I feel for anyone using a wheelchair, knee-walker, or similar.)

    Of note, I haven’t figured out how the city is avoiding ADA compliance issues with the sidewalk infill during Phase 3 since they’ll have crossed the threshold at that point (it is a full road surface replacement, not just a pothole filling exercise.)

  • You do get to call them NIMBYs when the city holds secret meetings to remove crossing signals (opening city up to Brown Act lawsuit) and remove Phase 3 without its removal being listed as an option (opening the city to a ADA lawsuit). They are literally NIMBYs as the most vocal are the ones who reside with their back yards adjacent the former US Route 66.

    P.S. “Cars don’t jump curbs”? You need to read the “Carnage” section of the news coverage here more. They do and they do so often when traveling at the speeds that Foothill accommodates.

  • Dana

    If they walk in the road on Foothill that is their choice, but there is a perfectly good sidewalk on the other side. The entire city needs curb ramps, as is the case with many places. What “systematic things” are there? I don’t get it.

    In any case the city council has clearly listened to the residents. Everyone wins – a better sidewalk, bike lane, good landscaping. The opinions of those who participated in the master plan don’t get to be vetoed by people who don’t even live here.

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