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Traffic Impact: Primary Concern With California Incline Project:

Neighbors of the California Incline Bridge Replacement Project expressed deep concern about the disruptive nature of the project to their daily lives at a workshop on the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment (DEIR/EA) held on June 20.

DEIR/EA documents state that the project will consist of building a new incline to replace the existing but deteriorated incline in order to meet current seismic standards. After demolishing the current structure, the new incline will be approximately 750 feet long with a width of 51 feet, 8 inches, which is 5 feet, 8 inches wider than the current incline. There will be a 6-foot shoulder beside the westerly vehicular lane, and the current sidewalk width will be increased. The current 12-foot-wide vehicular lanes will also be maintained. Construction of the project, which is anticipated to last approximately 10 months, is supposed to begin at the end of 2008 and be completed by mid-2009.

Traffic mitigation measures proposed during the bridge construction in the DEIR/EA include the City developing a Traffic Management Plan and having the City and Caltrans conduct regular monitoring of “traffic operations/demand and make necessary adjustments to traffic signal timing along PCH, Ocean Avenue, Lincoln Boulevard and 4th Street.” Another proposed mitigation is placing proper signage “to direct/encourage motorists to use the Ocean Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard detours” in order “to avoid exacerbating already poor operating conditions at PCH and Channel Road/Chautauqua Boulevard along Channel Road/Entrada Drive.”

Despite assurances by the City’s Principal Civil Engineer, Mark Cuneo, that “once the project is in the design phase there will be public forums and workshops on the traffic plan,” project neighbors still were deeply concerned about traffic impacts. George Wolfberg, president of the Santa Monica Canyon Civic Association, told the Mirror, “We’re not opposed [to the project] but we want to sit at the table to make the decisions” about the traffic plan because “mitigation should be the focal point.” He suggested having C.C. Meyers, the contractor who quickly repaired the 10 freeway after the Northridge earthquake, work on the Incline project.

Another project neighbor, Holly Goldberg Sloan, said the project “should be bid 24/7” so it can be completed quickly. A contractor can work around the clock “to lessen the social costs” of traffic congestion and noise.

Bob Cheung of Katz, Okitsu & Associates is the Senior Transportation Planner for the project. He explained to the Mirror that the City is “exploring options for the traffic mitigation” plan, but a plan won’t be developed until after the design phase is completed. However, Palisades Beach Road is being considered as a possible detour route.

The DEIR/EA notes that the noise impacts from the project are “less than significant” because they are mitigatable by using “standard construction noise control measures.” Noise could be caused by “heavy-duty construction equipment usage, vehicle trips generated from construction workers traveling to and from the project site and haul trucks transporting debris and excavated soil.” One of the noise mitigation measures suggested in the DEIR/EA is having the on-site construction supervisor available to “receive and resolve noise complaints.” If this doesn’t work, the City will establish an appeals process prior to the beginning of construction for noise problems.

Two impacts that were found to be “significant” because they are unmitigatable were the project’s effect on historical resources and air quality. The bridge was determined to be eligible for designation in the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, but all that characterizes the bridge as a historic property will be lost when it is demolished. Air quality consequences will be significant because during construction the project is predicted to emit emissions that will exceed the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) daily threshold.

Cuneo noted that in 2006 the project’s cost was estimated to be $8.4 million and that funding for the project would come mainly from the federal Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program and the City.

Written comments on the DEIR/EA will be accepted through July 9. Copies of these documents are available for public review at all of the City’s public libraries. Comments should be sent to Eugenia Chusid at Civil Engineering and Architecture, 1437 4th Street, Suite 200, Santa Monica, CA 90401 or e-mailed to Eugenia.Chusid@smgov.net.

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