Starting this year permits from the Santa Monica Planning Department will require a new additional fee called “Travel Demand Forecasting Model.”
This has come not a moment too soon, as the model predicts that the neighborhood of Sunset Park will reach traffic paralysis at 5:22 p.m. on April 1, 2022. At that time evening traffic, having already gridlocked all the streets, will start to overload all the possible alleys via Waze and that quarter of the City will freeze in terminal rigor mortis. This is due to the approximately 2-mile barrier along our southern border formed by the Airport and Penmar Park, leaving only three undersized outlets for southbound traffic: Lincoln Blvd, 23rd Street/Walgrove and Bundy/Centinela.
Fortunately the traffic wizards of S.M.art (Santa Monican Architects for Responsible Tunneling) are implementing a brilliant solution: drilling a mile long tunnel straight north under the airport from the intersection of Walgrove and Airport Avenue, to the east edge of Virginia Park at the Cloverfield Blvd and Kansas intersection.
There will be signals at each end allowing the two reversible lanes to be northbound in the morning and southbound in the evening.
This added capacity will not only keep traffic out of Sunset Park but also alleviate traffic along 23rd Street, Bundy and Lincoln, currently all streets which are in total gridlock. The tunnel will feed traffic to Cloverfield, Pico and the 10 Freeway at the north end while at the south end it can feed Rose, Beethoven or Venice Blvd via Walgrove. The City of Los Angeles has already agreed to optimize Walgrove by removing allowed parking on the east side in the morning (7-9 a.m.) and on the west side in the evening (4-7 p.m.). These parking changes will expedite flow and prevent enormous lines at the tunnel’s exit.
There will be three ventilation shafts along tunnel’s length: at the Northwest corner of the runway, and at the eastern “T” legs of the two alleys north of the intersections of Pearl and Cloverfield and north of Ocean Park and Cloverfield.
Finally, now that it is shortened, the construction staging area will be at the west end of the runway.
The excavated soil will be used to raise the parking lot north of the Pier and to build a curving vehicle ramp west of the Life Guard Station Headquarters to allow emergency vehicles and periodic deliveries to go from Seaside Terrace up to the vacated pier parking lot. This ramp road will have a traffic light at Ocean Front Walk. These shoreline improvements will defend our greatest tourist asset, the Pier, and our most vulnerable transportation asset, the Mc Clure tunnel, from inevitable sea level rise and will avoid the need for another vehicle bridge at the south edge of the pier when the existing pier bridge is rebuilt for pedestrian use only.
It will take three years to complete (two years of design, EIR and bidding followed by one year of construction) and will cost an estimated $70 million or half the cost of the new City Hall Annex.
While value engineering is still underway, the City may consider making the tunnel car-sized only, with trucks buses etc still using 23rd Street. The City manager, R. Coal, valiantly trying to staunch the red ink in the City budget, has persuaded Elon Tusk to loan the City for free, the boring equipment used for the experimental car tunnel in Hawthorne. In that case we will have two smaller tunnels instead of one larger tunnel.
Finally to reduce operating costs, the tunnel(s) will have continuously projected advertisements on the interior side of the tunnel(s) that are synchronized to the speed of individual cars like they have in the Shanghai subways.
This being Santa Monica, everybody has an opinion. Several well-known community activists have already weighed in. Z. Josephson says “I can’t believe it took the City this long to figure this out”, while J. Roobin says he “Loves it: and now with this beautiful tunnel, Santa Monica will finally have a world class airport like Van Nuys not to mention LAX”.
As expected several community organizations have also been throwing up red flags. Bird wants a lane just for scooters. The ecologists want to make sure the water that the drilling may tap into, will be available for the landscape of the public park proposed in the event the airport closes. The Santa Monica Conservers have objected because the tunnel would disturb the natural setting of the Omni Directional Antenna (ODA), that round navigation aid at the southwest end of the runway.The Conservers wanted this ODA to be their next Landmark that would be a bookend to the already Landmarked aviation beacon at the other end of the runway. Finally, the Sierra Club has indicated concern because the tunnel will disturb the coyotes that live at the end of the runway.
Apparently, they are the only natural way for a Green City to control the rampant raccoons, that with their prehensile hands, masks and nighttime habits, are responsible for Santa Monica’s crime increase. Finally, the City Council is debating if Sunset Park gets this benefit, what will the other districts get?
Sometimes the solution to the most complicated problems is right below our feet. Happy April Fools Day.
By Mario Fonda-Bonardi AIA
For Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow
Sam Tolkin, Architect; Dan Jansenson Building and Safety Commissioner, Architect; Mario Fonda-Bonardi, AIA, Planning Commissioner; Ron Goldman, FAIA; Thane Roberts,Architect; Bob. Taylor, AIA; Phil Brock, Arts Commissioner.