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Metro “Multimodal” 605 Freeway Ramp-Widening Project Out to Bid with No Multimodal Component

The "multimodal" project scope contains no bicycle or transit components, and, for pedestrians, merely re-installs the existing crosswalk and walk signals at the widened mouth of the off-ramp

Metro plans to widen the 605 Freeway’s South Street offramp as an initial phase of widening the freeway itself. Photo via Google Street View

Metro recently put its $20+ million 605 Freeway South Street project out to bid. The I-605 South Street Off-Ramp Improvement Project is part of Metro's I-605 Hot Spots Program, which is a sort of catch-all funding category for widening the 605, the 91, the 60, and several ramps and roadways leading to these freeways.

Metro overview of $10 billion 605 Corridor Improvement Project and 605 Hot Spots - via Metro July 2022 presentation. The 605/South St. project is the lowest purple dot (center).

Metro and Caltrans' 605/South Street project has been difficult to research. The project's entire environmental documentation consists of a one-page 2019 notice of exemption (NOE). The Metro project page has no documents - none. Metro and Caltrans completed a project study report (PSR - started in 2017) which is not available online, and which neither Metro nor Caltrans would provide to Streetsblog, even via formal public records requests.

In February Streetsblog had reported that this project included a nearly mile-long freeway widening - adding an "auxiliary lane" on the 605 between the 91 and South Street. But this was inaccurate; the initial construction will be just the early off-ramp widening phase, setting up a later phase in which the freeway would be widened, adding the aux lane.

605 South Street off-ramp striping plan, showing widened four-lane 60 feet wide ramp - via Metro bid packet

The current project out for bid would add about 350 feet of additional right turn pocket lane on the South Street off-ramp. The current three-lane 42-foot-wide off-ramp would be enlarged to four lanes and would be 60 feet wide.

This is a precursor to the next freeway widening phase, noted in a 2017 Metro 605 South Street project staff report: "Metro, in cooperation with Caltrans District 7 and the GCCOG [Gateway Cities Council of Governments], is advancing the development and implementation of an additional auxiliary lane on southbound I-605 between the SR-91 connector and South Street."

Metro 605/South Street project map showing the future 605 Freeway widening (adding a nearly mile long auxiliary lane from the 91 to South Street) - via 2017 Metro staff report

Metro has billed the current South Street ramp widening as a "multimodal" project, but the bid documents make clear that there are no multimodal elements.

605/South Street project update noting supposed "Multimodal Elements" - via January 2023 Metro presentation

The project scope contains no bicycle or transit components, and, for pedestrians, merely re-installs the existing crosswalk and walk signals at the widened mouth of the off-ramp.

In 2021, Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins realigned Metro's massive Highway Program in order to shift projects away from single-purpose highway expansion to including multimodal improvements. At the time, Metro pledged that: [staff report]

...accommodations for all users, whether they walk, bike, roll, take transit or drive are considered... These improvements include construction of missing sidewalks, curb ramps, bike lanes... [and] transit service-related work...

Local complimentary projects such as pedestrian, bicycle, signal, and safety improvements will be included in the scope of highway projects.

...highway investments will aim to provide mobility options for all, including those with the greatest mobility needs.

Two years later, though internal reorganization has had some positive effects (last week Metro canceled hundreds of planned home demolitions on one 605 Freeway widening project), significant multimodal components remain elusive. For many Metro freeway expansion projects - from the Gateway Cities to the San Gabriel Valley to North County - Metro seems hell-bent on slamming in car-centric freeway, ramp, and road expansions, exactly as highway-builders imagined them many years ago - with no further planning or environmental processes, no public input, no community meetings, no input from transit/bike/ped users/groups/experts.

Since the 2021 reorganization, Metro staff had nearly two years to review the 605/South Street project and add actual multimodal elements. Streetsblog was able to identify numerous related multimodal improvements including missing sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, and bus stop features which Metro might have been included.

If Metro staff can get away with gaslighting - touting nonexistent multimodal elements - on this freeway ramp expansion project, how many more "in the pipeline" projects are there that will just keep expanding car capacity and ignoring Wiggins' realignment?

It's time for Metro to actually build for multiple modes. Host some meetings. Take some public input. Modify some projects. Future Metro projects will be all the better for it.

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