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Glendale-Hyperion Bridge Political Contortions Forcing Unsafe Compromise Design

Los Angeles' latest "Option 1A" propsal for the Glendale Hyperion Bridge would preserve two sidewalks. Detail - click for full page.

Los Angeles’ latest “Option 1A” proposal for the Glendale Hyperion Bridge would preserve two sidewalks but not include the planned bike lanes. Detail – click for full page.

Last night, the Citizens Advisory Committee for the design of the new Glendale-Hyperion Bridge met to discuss the city’s latest proposal.

L.A.’s historic Glendale-Hyperion Bridge opened in 1927. It connects the Los Angeles communities of Silver Lake and Atwater Village. About ten years ago, city plans to renovate the bridge got underway. In 2013, the city proposed a dangerously high-speed highway-scale bridge design. Communities objected to the proposal. The city went back to the drawing board, and formed an Advisory Committee tasked with reviewing various possible configurations, and coming up with a better plan for the new bridge.

In August, the committee voted to move forward with Option 3 which includes bike lanes and sidewalks, and a road diet. Four existing car lanes would be reduced down to three lanes.  L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, who represents the area on one side of the bridge, rejected the committee’s selection in favor of one that preserved four traffic lanes.

Given the width of the bridge, there is not quite enough room for two sidewalks, two bike lanes, and four car lanes. LaBonge’s insistence on preserving four car lanes meant that either bike lanes or a sidewalk would be eliminated.

The project stewed internally for a few months.

At last night’s meeting, attended by LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds and City Engineer Gary Moore, LADOT presented a new design – called Option 1A. The new option is an attempt to preserve both sidewalks while meeting LaBonge’s insistence on four car lanes. This eliminates the bike lanes. Preserving both sidewalks (via either Option 1A or Option 3) is important. As it would be prohibitively costly to go back and add sidewalks at a later date. Lanes, whether for bicycles or cars, can be reconfigured relatively inexpensively.

The city’s Option 1A cross section labels the bridge sidewalks as “shared use path[s].” Advisory Committee members Deborah Murphy (L.A. Walks), Don Ward (Los Feliz Neighborhood Council), and Eric Bruins (L.A. County Bicycle Coalition) all commented that these are just sidewalks, not designed for shared use. For most of the bridge, Option 1A shows an 8-foot sidewalk. Under Waverly Drive, the sidewalk narrows to 5.5 feet. The bridge is sloped, which means most cyclists will travel at fairly high speeds downhill. With limited width, limited sight lines, and significant speed differences between people walking and bicycling, Bruins characterized Option 1A as a “recipe for disaster.” Read more…

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L.A. Council Approves Call for Projects List with Cedillo Snub Intact

Rendering of the proposed buffered bike lane on North Figueroa Street. Image: Flying Pigeon L.A.

Rendering of the planned buffered bike lane on North Figueroa Street. Yesterdays’ Council vote signals a further step away from a North Figueroa that would be safer for all. Image: Flying Pigeon L.A.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council approved the list of projects [PDF] that the city plans to submit for Metro Call for Projects funding. Overall, the Call list includes a lot of great projects that reflect that many L.A. City elected officials and the city’s Transportation Department (LADOT) are truly pursuing greater livability and safety.

Unfortunately, the list also includes the ”North Figueroa Great Streets Corridor,” City Councilmember Gil Cedillo’s proposal to add diagonal parking to North Figueroa Street instead of bike lanes.

At yesterday’s meeting, more than half a dozen speakers urged the Council not to pursue Cedillo’s North Figueroa proposal. Speakers included a North Figueroa business owner, local residents, and livability advocates. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s Alek Bartrosouf testified that, “It is important to ensure that as we build Great Streets across the City of Los Angeles that these streets are designed for the safety of all who travel them, and that the planning process is open and inclusive of all voices.”

The LACBC further clarified concerns in their comment letter [PDF] which urged Council President Herb Wesson to re-scope the North Figueroa project to align with the inclusive vision in the city’s bike and mobility plans.

Cedillo’s response to the public was telling. He characterized speakers as having “one percent dictate for 99 percent.” He portrayed complete streets supporters as bullies, proclaiming, “We will not be bullied.” Ultimately, Cedillo defended his North Figueroa project in Orwellian livability rhetoric, stating it includes a “multi-modal approach” and puts “safety first and foremost.”

The City Council, which generally defers to the councilmember who represents the district where a project is located, approved the Call for Projects list unanimously.

Yesterday’s vote gives LADOT staff the go-ahead to seek funding for Cedillo’s project. The project will compete with other applications for Metro funding. If project funding is approved by Metro in mid-2015, funding would be programmed beginning in FY 2019-2020. The project scope could be modified during design and environmental review processes.

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Cedillo Insults Bikes as L.A. Gears Up for Metro 2015 Call for Projects

Via the Metro Call for Projects process, yesterday Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo revealed his plans for diagonal parking on North Figueroa Street. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Via the Metro Call for Projects process, yesterday Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo revealed his plans for diagonal parking on North Figueroa Street. Cedillo is pictured above at an October 2014 press event.  Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The Metro Call for Projects (the Call) competitively grants transportation funding to L.A. County cities to build various transportation projects. Metro’s next Call for Projects will take place in 2015, with cities applying in late January, and awardees announced by mid-2015. The Call takes place every other year.

In the recent past, Metro’s Call was the biggest source of funding for L.A. County bicycle and pedestrian projects, though the Call categories go far beyond just active transportation. Due to changes in federal transportation funding, a lot of the walk and bike monies have been shifted into the statewide Active Transportation Program. Nonetheless, the Call continues to shape the way local transportation capital is spent, and still includes some bike and pedestrian funding. This will be the first Call since the Metro Board of Directors adopted the agency’s Complete Streets Policy, which asserts that the agency will prioritize projects that support a breadth of modes.

Metro’s 2015 Call will include the following funding categories:

  • Regional Surface Transportation Improvements (RSTI; mostly road-widening)
  • Goods Movement Improvements
  • Signal Synchronization and Bus Speed Improvements
  • Transportation Demand Management
  • Transit Capital
  • Bicycle Improvements
  • Pedestrian Improvements

When the Call approaches, the city of L.A. embarks on an internal ranking process. Various city departments– primarily Transportation (LADOT), but also Public Works bureaus, and sometimes the port, airports, and others–submit projects internally. The Mayor and City Council have a hand in making sure departments include projects that they support and prioritize. The city then scores and ranks the projects internally, selecting a final list of recommended projects.

That entire selection process remains behind closed doors until the final city project list is brought to the City Council for approval. The first step in this approval took place yesterday, when LADOT presented its recommendations to the City Council Transportation Committee. LADOT recommendations include an explanatory cover letter [PDF] and a project list spreadsheet [PDF].

There are millions of stories in these LADOT documents, not all of which will fit in today’s article. For now, SBLA will just highlight some of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Read more…

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Councilmember Cedillo Adds Stop Sign In Response To Fatal Hit-and-Run

New stop sign at Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place in Highland Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

New stop sign at Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place in Highland Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

On September 14, a hit-and-run driver killed 57-year-old Gloria Ortiz. Ms. Ortiz was walking in a crosswalk in the Northeast Los Angeles community of Highland Park. The hit-and-run crime took place at the intersection of Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place, adjacent to Aldama Street Elementary School. According to KTLA5, witnesses stated that the driver “just ran her over, didn’t even turn back.”

Local residents joke darkly that speeding drivers think Avenue 50 is the name of the speed limit, not the street.

Councilmember Cedillo speaking yesterday in front of Aldama Elementary School. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Councilmember Cedillo speaking yesterday in front of Aldama Elementary School. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Less than a month later, yesterday, community leaders joined Los Angeles Councilmember Gil Cedillo and Transportation Department (LADOT) head Seleta Reynolds to highlight city efforts to make Avenue 50 safer. New stop signs were added to the intersection where Ortiz was killed. The existing somewhat-worn continental crosswalk was freshly re-painted, actually freshly re-thermoplastic-ed. @HLP90042 posted before and after photos at Twitter.

Councilmember Cedillo, who has dragged his heels on safety improvements approved for nearby North Figueroa, spoke on his commitment to “street safety, particularly around schools and where people gather.”

General Manager Reynolds emphasized that “the biggest predictor of fatalities on a street is speed, and the biggest factor in speed on your street is design” and reiterated her department’s commitment to making “safety our number one priority.”

Local resident Monica Alcaraz, president of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, praised the city’s quick response in adding the stop sign. She described walking to Aldama School as being safe when she was younger. Today, walking her daughter to the school, she fears for their safety. Alcaraz stated that Avenue 50 is dangerous when parents are making illegal U-turns and double-parking at school drop-off and pick-up times, and, then, when the students aren’t around, Avenue 50 is dangerous because so many drivers speed. Alcaraz urged LAPD to spend more time on traffic enforcement there to prevent future tragedies.

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Cartoon Tuesday: Neighborhood Council Meeting Bike Lane Bingo

Bike Lane Bingo card by Nathan Lucero

Bike Lane Bingo card by Nathan Lucero

It’s not quite a cartoon, but it is a clever, sad, ironic laugh. Friend of the blog Nathan Lucero posted his Bike Lane meeting bingo card at the Figueroa for All Facebook group.

Not all neighborhood councils are the same; many have been very supportive of facilities for bicycling and walking. It does seem like there is, more often than not, a few complainers who trot out tired excuses for opposing these safety projects. Lucero’s card specifically references the sad, ironic struggle to make North Figueroa safer, in the face of Councilmember Cedillo’s flip-flop, a story you can read here, here, and here. The meetings are still happening as Cedillo’s staff are still pressing for crappy alternative bike routes to keep North Figueroa car-centric and dangerous.

So far, there is only one bingo card, so everyone will be calling bingo at the same moment. Read more…

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City Nears Purchase of Key Parcel for L.A. River Revitalization

Map of Taylor Yard parcel G2.

Map of the 41-acre Taylor Yard parcel G2, which the city of Los Angeles is purchasing to restore and revitalize the adjacent Los Angeles River. Image from City of Los Angeles MND notice. [PDF]

A big property acquisition is underway that will set the stage for planned large-scale revitalization of the Los Angeles River. The City of Los Angeles is expecting to complete the purchase of a former railyard site that Mayor Eric Garcetti and others describe as the “crown jewel” of any large-scale restoration of the river.

While there’s a long lineage of leaders who pressed for this purchase, credit will go to Garcetti and City Councilmember Gil Cedillo for marshaling the present push.

In a statement to SBLA, Mayor Garcetti emphasized:

This parcel is a crown jewel in our plans to restore the Los Angeles River, and I’m proud to have made acquisition of it a top priority for the city.  This site represents a large amount of open space that will help us free the river from its concrete straight jacket and connect local communities to its natural beauty.

In May, Mayor Garcetti celebrated the federal government’s selection of an extensive $1 billion, 11-mile habitat restoration project. Though that is great news, there are still a lot of hurdles before that federal money washes up on L.A. shores–not the least of which is getting the feds to begin setting aside initial portions of that $1 billion.

Another hurdle is ownership of river land. Though the city has approved an ambitious river master plan, some parts of the plan would take shape on river sites that are currently privately owned. For the most part, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the main federal agency involved in L.A. River work, does not proceed with project design and implementation on privately owned sites.

So, to tap into federal funding, the city needs to buy land.

Read more…

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Cedillo’s Folly: Council Adjourns in Memory of Veteran Killed Crossing North Fig.

On August 20, at the ironic request of Councilmember Gil Cedillo, the Los Angeles City Council adjourned in memory of 84 year-old Korean War Veteran, William Matelyan. Matelyan was crossing North Figueroa Street at Avenue 26 last month when he was struck and killed by a car. This area of North Figueroa was approved for a road diet in the 2010 City of Los Angeles Bike Plan. Road diets are proven safety measures that make streets safer for all.

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 8.11.53 AM

A google map of the area for the proposed North Figueroa road diet. The white dot near the bottom left shows where North Figueroa intersects with Avenue 26.

A Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was prepared by city staff and released in January of 2013. The report showed a series of road diets and bike lanes throughout Los Angeles would have “no significant impact” on through-traffic time. The EIR traffic studies included the North Figueroa Project between San Fernando Road and Colorado Boulevard.

After the extensive EIR work, the city’s Transportation Department (LADOT) was on the verge of implementing the North Figueroa road diet, until it was delayed last year by newly-elected Councilmember Cedillo. Cedillo later indefinitely delayed the safety project, citing safety concerns. Cedillo’s supposed safety justification appears to be based on the unsubstantiated testimony of selected police and fire officers. Officers cited possible emergency response vehicle delays, though their statements are at odds with actual LADOT traffic studies.

Before Cedillo blocked the project, construction had appeared imminent. Based on similar projects throughout the city, it is clear that construction would have been completed by now without Cedillo’s interference.

The diet would have reduced the number of through-traffic lanes for much of North Figueroa, and would have added buffered bike lanes for 5.1 miles between San Fernando Road and Colorado Boulevard. The city’s traffic studies showed this would lead to slightly reduced average traffic speeds, making the street safer for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. LADOT calculated that the peak delay along the road diet would be less than a minute of delay for motorists.

When asked to comment on the street’s safety on Facebook, Cedillo spokesperson Louis Reyes answered that “Having researched the issue with our staff, that corner has not been slated with any type of prior planning. We are in the process of having LA DOT look at this dangerous intersection. “

Whether Reyes is unaware of LADOT’s EIR, or forgetting the highly-publicized battle to improve North Figueroa safety, or whether the office is just stating that slowing down traffic to make streets safer for all road users isn’t a safety improvement is not known.

On Twitter, Cedillo remains defiant, stating that “…there are no comprehensive LADOT studies on Figueroa that exist. We are doing them now.” Read more…

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Editorial: Respect Your Advisory Committee, Build a Safer Hyperion Bridge

Members of the Glendale Hyperion Bridge Community Advisory Committee, city staff, and elected officials walk the bridge during their final meeting on August 7. Photo: Don Ward

Members of the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge project Community Advisory Committee, city staff, and elected officials walk the bridge during their final meeting on August 7. Photo: Don Ward

There has been quite a bit of proverbial water under the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Under a great deal of community displeasure in 2013, the city of Los Angeles set aside an outdated bridge retrofit plan and formed an advisory committee to decide the future of the historic span.

The 9-member Glendale-Hyperion Viaduct Improvement Project Community Advisory Committee is a broad cross-section of the local communities. It includes representatives from nearby elected city bodies: the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council, Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, and the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council. Rounding it out are folks representing historic preservation, parents from local schools, and concerned non-profits: Friends of the L.A. River, the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, L.A. Walks, and the Los Feliz Improvement Association.

The committee has been meeting roughly every other month since December 2013. It reviewed design options and technical studies, and discussed how the bridge could best serve the diverse future transportation needs of all adjacent neighborhoods. The available technical studies focus on delays to car traffic, with no thorough evaluation of safety, health, or environmental outcomes. Even using these stacked-deck car-centric studies, bridge bike lanes and sidewalks not only appear feasible, but perform better than the existing bridge configuration.

At the committee’s final meeting on August 7, they were unable to come to a full consensus on a final recommendation for the configuration of the bridge.

So, as folks do in democracies, they took a vote.

The final vote was 6 to 3 in favor of the “Option 3″ road diet configuration. Option 3 reduces one car travel lane, resulting in three car lanes (one northbound, two southbound), two bike lanes, and sidewalks on both sides of the bridge. The Community Advisory Committee completed their task; their advice to the city is to include two sidewalks and two bike lanes on the new bridge.

Option 3 is a compromise. Read more…

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NELA’s Historic Riverside-Figueroa Bridge Being Demolished

An innovative proposal for re-use as a “landbridge” park could not save the Riverside-Figueroa Bridge. A lawsuit could not save it. Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark Number 908 is on its way down.

The Riverside-Figueroa’s existing steel span structure dates to the late 1930s. The concrete-arched abutments date to the late 1920s.

In the name of safety and based on indefensible 25-year traffic projections, the city of Los Angeles’ Bridge Program is spending nearly $70 million to replace the bridge’s two-lane pinch-point with a freeway-scale 4-lane speedway.

The Eastsider already ran some great aerial photos of the demolition. SBLA complements that coverage with this demolition sequence photographed by Daveed Kapoor. The new freeway-scale bridge, half-completed and already open to car traffic, is visible in the upper left of the photos.  Read more…

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Glendale-Hyperion Bridge Traffic Projections Favor Bike Lanes Option

Now you see me. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Cyclist riding towards Silver Lake on the Glendale Hyperion Bridge. L.A. City analysis predicts that bike lanes are feasible as part of the planned bridge retrofit project. Photo: Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

As the saga of the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge retrofit project continues, it becomes clearer that, even under the city’s car traffic growth assumptions, it will be viable to add bike lanes to the new project and to keep two sidewalks.

The story thus far: In 1927 the City of Los Angeles completed the Victory Memorial Viaduct spanning the not-yet-concreted Los Angeles River. The historic bridge is, today, better known as the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, because it facilitates the merging of Glendale Boulevard and Hyperion Avenue.

Over a decade ago, funding became available for bridge retrofit projects. Glendale-Hyperion was just too lucrative for bridge consultants to pass up. The historic viaduct is technically a six-bridge complex, so it is eligible for six times more money than an ordinary bridge. In 2013, city staff and their consultants pressed for a wrongheadedly dangerously high-speed highway-scale design. Cyclists, pedestrians, and local leaders organized visible vocal opposition to the city’s proposal. What had looked like a done deal began to appear shaky.

To its credit, the city responded by forming a Citizens Advisory Committee. Earlier this year, the city returned to the committee with multi-modal design options, including bike lanes, sidewalks, and crosswalks.

In a recent presentation [PDF] to the advisory committee, the city showed the results of its technical studies analyzing how various potential bridge configurations can be expected to perform.

Graph showing car traffic volumes 2001-2014 on the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Image via L.A. City Presentation - page x

Graph showing car traffic volumes 2001-2014 on the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Image via L.A. City Citizen Advisory Committee Presentation [PDF – see page 4]

The graph above shows past car traffic volumes measured on the bridge.

Even according to the city’s characterization, “traffic volumes have been flat since 2001.” During this period, nationwide per capita car mileage declined. Nationwide overall total car miles driven also declined. Locally, car traffic on the Hyperion portion of the bridge, the lower green and purple lines on the above graph, also declined. But call it flat for now.

The city’s experts used “historic data” and other factors to predict the bridge’s car traffic in 2040. With car traffic flat for over a decade, one might assume that future car volumes would continue their observed flat trajectory. No. The city’s fortune tellers predict a worst-case scenario showing 1 percent annual growth. Apparently, in the 2030s, people are going to drive like they did in the 1980s. As transit planner Jarrett Walker states, “This isn’t prediction or projection. This is denial.”

These sorts of predictions generally justify widening roadways which squeezes out space for pedestrians and cyclists.

The city ran its car traffic prediction models. Models based on “Level of Service,” in which the words “safety,” “walk,” and “bicycle” do not appear. LOS models keep predicting that widening freeways will reduce surface street traffic and improve air quality. Though the State of California is in the process abandoning LOS, it remains in wide use.

Even with an imaginary 1 percent annual car traffic growth for the next 25 years, a 3-lane road diet option performs slightly better than all other scenarios studied, including the bridge’s current 4-lane configuration. Right now on Hyperion, there are four car lanes, two in each direction. A road diet would eliminate one southbound northbound car lane, and add bike lanes.  Read more…