To get to the next election?
June 5 Take Back the Blvd. Meeting
The Proposed Changes
by Tom Topping
A good sized group was on hand to attend the latest meeting of the “Take Back the Boulevard” effort. After introductions and a recap of the process so far for those who missed previous meetings, the consultants and committee members unveiled their plan.
One of the key issues was to identify the utmost desires of the community and try to coordinate that with what might actually be possible.
Goals for the changes had been determined from previous community meetings which included:
* Providing safety for all modes of transportation.
* Stimulating economic growth through increased pedestrian economic activity.
* Increasing community health through encouraging other forms of transportation besides the single passenger auto.
From these, many possible improvements were conceived, and all received consideration no matter how cheap and simple or expensive and complex they were. Much of the committee and consultant work was filtered and condensed into a list a things that are actually doable. This was done by applying certain criteria to the various ideas.
The major criteria for that centered around current law, policy, practice and funding.
The city’s department of transportation is where the law, policy and current practices had to jibe. Street ideas and concepts already in use in other parts of the city identified what is possible to be done without an extreme amount of time, effort and money. Other ideas, no matter how great they may be and how well they might work in other municipalities, if they don’t go along with what the DOT is used to, will not be possible in L.A. without a lot of extra time and effort.
The second criteria is how to pay for it all, and here the effort has come up with two basic strategies.
The first strategy is to find money that is available for anything that might apply to the boulevard and make the best use of it so that other, more desirable, changes can be achieved at the same time. The second strategy is to be ready with a comprehensive plan, shovel ready, so to speak, so that if and when money becomes available, the Eagle Rock community is prepared to make a grab for it and put it right to work.
#1 – Bike Lanes
Adding bicycle lanes to Colorado Boulevard will be the first change. This is mostly because money has been designated and is ready and waiting to be spent on bicycle lanes. Putting in bicycle lanes will require reducing the traffic lanes from 3 to 2, which is believed to go toward achieving the goal of increasing traffic safety for bicyclists, due to having their own lane, and safety for motorists and pedestrians as well due to the forecast reduction in average speed.
It the contention and, I assume, the belief of the committee that increasing safety for all will result in more pedestrian activity, which is supposed to enhance the sales for local businesses along the route.
The DOT should have no problem with this change because they are well used to bike lanes which are becoming quite prevalent throughout the city, and it is a change which is “Easily Reversible” (a new buzz-word) in case the bike lanes lead to unintended negative consequences that outweigh their benefits.
#2 – Crosswalks
Adding bolder and bigger crosswalks (euro-style design) is something that also fits the criteria because it basically involves just paint. It will be relatively low-cost and committee members believe it will give motorists the message that pedestrians are present causing them to slow down.
#3 – Curb Bumpouts
Although cement curb bumpouts like Colorado Blvd in Glendale has are considered desirable, the cost factor is considered too prohibitive. However, making bumpouts at crosswalks with paint and flexible pylons are not. The idea is to give a “safer” zone for pedestrians to come partially into the street, there by making the walk across the street a shorter and safer one.
#4 – Left Turn Slots and Islands
The islands that separate the two directions of the boulevard currently run from Caspar to Townsend Avenues. These possess not only attractive qualities, but also provide a “safe” zone for pedestrians, who can cross half the boulevard at a time when needing to get to the other side.
Similarly, the committee proposal includes installing more islands where there currently are none, in areas needing increased safety for pedestrians to cross.
Left turn slots are also proposed for all intersections, so that safety will be increased, which will require narrowing the islands where those slots would be built.
However, this proposed change, while fitting with the DOT’s way of doing business, is neither inexpensive nor easily reversible. It does fit the criteria and goals, however, and if planned out in advance, could be readily achieved should funding become available in the future.
The committee heard both praise and criticism from community members, which made the meeting a success, as it was held to elicit exactly that. This input will be considered as the committee and consultants finalize their plan.
Meanwhile, the DOT has already begun the work of preparing an EIR (environmental impact report), which must be done before any of these changes are performed.
Neither the committee nor the council office had an answer when asked how long the comment and review period would be for the EIR. They did not specify any plan to fulfill the legal requirement of publicizing the report or eliciting comments on it, saying that it was the responsibility of the DOT to do so. (For those not familiar with EIR’s, often they are revised or litigated after public review and comment, which could postpone any improvements to the boulevard for months or years.)