Letters from local officials and others regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the California Incline project show a pervasive concern about the project’s potential impact on traffic.
DEIR documents state that the project will consist of building a new incline to replace the existing but deteriorating one in order to meet current seismic standards. In the DEIR, traffic mitigation measures proposed during the bridge construction 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 measure 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.”
Letters have been pouring in to Eugenia Chusid in the City’s Civil Engineering and Architecture Department.
In a July 2 letter to Santa Monica City Manager P. Lamont Ewell, Los Angeles Councilmember Bill Rosendahl stated that he is “concerned that planning for the traffic mitigations is not moving quickly or thoughtfully enough, and our respective transportation departments are not working collaboratively.” He then proposed developing “a joint Santa Monica-Los Angeles California Incline Working Group…to propose solutions for the traffic problems.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky also sent a letter on July 2, commenting on the DEIR and noting that the project could “potentially cause major traffic disruptions to the surrounding communities including the Santa Monica Canyon, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica and Brentwood” and calling for “all feasible mitigation measures to reduce the traffic impacts.”
A July 5 letter from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) made some specific suggestions regarding the potential traffic problems by requesting that “Santa Monica should consider, if possible, allowing traffic during peak travel periods along any completed portions of the facility.” It was also suggested that an analysis be made of potential traffic impacts related to weekend traffic and summer weekend traffic because they weren’t done, and that the traffic analysis at key intersections needs to be redone because it is based on 2002 traffic counts. LADOT also noted that the DEIR did “not include a Traffic Management Plan (TMP) that sets the detours during construction of the project.” They would like the TMP to “discourage the use of Channel Road and Entrada Drive as bypass routes” and “discourage cut-through traffic through residential streets.”
LADOT was also critical of the project’s proposed construction timeline of 10 months, stating the construction “duration seems highly aggressive and optimistic.” They suggested that rather than having the proposed construction hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, the hours should be altered to allow nighttime work to speed up the construction timeframe.
In a letter dated July 9, State Senator Sheila Kuehl also expressed concerns about traffic impacts from the project after reading the DEIR. “There is little doubt that the temporary closure of the California Incline will negatively impact traffic on local streets in the Cities of Santa Monica and Los Angeles, including the communities of Santa Monica Canyon and Pacific Palisades, as well as two major state thoroughfares, the Santa Monica Freeway and Pacific Coast Highway.” Kuehl suggested that the City work closely with the City of Los Angeles and LADOT “to consider all suggestions for mitigating the traffic impacts on residents of both cities.” She added, “Once the construction begins and the mitigations have been adopted, I would suggest that traffic be very carefully monitored, that there be a mechanism for flexibility, for altering the initial plans and for making sure that information gets to the public.”
Community groups also have commented on the DEIR. In a July 5 letter, the Santa Monica Canyon Civic Association (SMCCA) suggested that Santa Monica suspend “limitations on construction work hours” for the duration of the project and 24/7 round-the-clock construction should be required to fast-track the project. They also proposed that the City not start construction until the Palisades Bluffs Improvement project is completed; “temporarily open Appian Way to through traffic for the duration of the project to provide local access to the area between the Pier and Pico Boulevard”; and “install anti-gridlock measures at all affected intersections on 7th Street/ Entrada/ West Channel Road as necessary.”
Another July 5 letter, this one from the Pacific Palisades Community Council (PPCC), said that their “primary concern is that the work on the project will exacerbate safety and traffic issues for the stakeholders in our community (as well as many residents of the City of Santa Monica) to the extent that egress from, and ingress into, the Pacific Palisades will be stifled and that concomitant issues of safety to drivers and residents in the Pacific Palisades will be increased to unacceptable levels.” They believe “the City of Santa Monica has not worked through thoughtfully enough the traffic and safety mitigation issues.”
PPCC recommendations include agreement with SMCCA that there should be round-the-clock construction “with a bonus for early completion and substantial penalties for preventable delays”; enhanced signage “to direct traffic away from Santa Monica Canyon”; and a “contingency plan to be implemented should Entrada Drive traffic back up to San Vicente Boulevard.”