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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