Wilshire Bus-Only Lane Needs Full Environmental Review After All

When we last checked-in on the status of the proposed bus-only lanes for Wilshire Boulevard, Metro staff was conducting outreach needed before the project could receive it’s environmental clearance.  At the time, staff hoped it would be completing the needed studies in the next couple of months.  However, they’re now estimating that, at best, the studies won’t be completed until June of 2010.

Next Wednesday, the City Council Transportation Committee will hear a request from LADOT to fund the city’s half of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the bus-only lanes project.  The hearing could prove interesting because the bus only lane, runs through the heart of the districts of both the new Committee Chairman, Bill Rosendahl, and new Vice Chairman Paul Koretz.  While Rosendahl has stated support for the project in the past; Koretz has been more vague and has certainly been lobbied by residents in affluent parts of his district opposed to the project.

According to the report for prepared for next week’s  hearing, there are two reasons that the bus-only plan will require EIR and not the shorter studies originally recommended and already completed.

…a number of intersections along the Wilshire Boulevard and parallel streets would experience traffic impacts that could not be mitigated to a level of insignificance.  In addition, public outreach in November of 2008 indicated both strong support throughout the corridor and strong opposition in several communities.  Based on these findings, staff at Metro and DOT determined that an EIR should be prepared for CEQA clearance.

In other words, the Wilshire bus-only lanes, a project that might have seemed a virtual lock a year ago might be in some trouble because of car traffic concerns.  At the very least it now faces more obstacles to overcome than it did in 2008.  In addition to needing a green light from an environmental standpoint, the project will need to survive another alternatives analysis and another round of public outreach in some areas where a bus only lane instead of street parking is a scary proposition to local residents.

The public hearings will be scheduled soon for late this month or early in October.  Since I most likely won’t be able to attend, anyone interested in reporting from the meeting should contact me at damien@streetsblog.org.

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