Friday, September 10, 2010

The 405 expansion: Highway of Death.

California is broke, the United States is broke.

But yet, like poor Judy Garland, who (according to an old queen I once met at a dinner) had to be shot up with speed to get her on the stage, the show must go on...
Thus we have the lovely 405 expansion. LA needs public transportation, we need a real subway line, not that stupid thing that takes you from North Hollywood to Hollywood to Downtown and I think there's another couple of lines that do their best to connect low income areas to the city while carefully avoiding all the rich areas.

The SF BART is a fantastic system vis a vis LA's subway but when comparing a full map of the bay area with a full map of the BART you will notice that the Peninsula (an area where the house they used on Dynasty is located and other real, real richie things are) and Marin County...which I believe for many years was the highest income per capita area of the country....are both NOT accessible by the way it took 40 years or so for the BART to get to SFO...which is still many miles away from Krystle and Alexis in the fish pond.

(see maps below)

Anyway, I digress, but that is probably why the few and the proud follow my blog...So there will be no real transportation in those areas that house the rich. And the 405 goes right through so many of those areas.

Thus rather than building a Sepulveda Pass subway of some sort that could connect to the North Hollywood subway (but it would have maybe even go through BEVERLY HILLS to do so, as Aretha Franklin once said, "ain't no way"), they are widening the "4 or 5" to accomodate the millions of people who are stuck on it every day...

Here is the official list of the exciting improvements to the 405 from the metro website...

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project will add a 10-mile HOV lane and improve supporting infrastructure such as ramps, bridges and sound walls on the San Diego Fwy. (I-405); while widening lanes from the Santa Monica Fwy. (I-10) to the Ventura Fwy. (US-101).

This project will reduce existing and forecasted traffic congestion on the I-405 and enhance traffic operations by adding freeway capacity in an area that experiences heavy congestion. In addition to these modifications, the project will improve both existing and future mobility and enhance safety throughout the corridor.

Project benefits include a decrease in commuter time, reduction in air pollution, and promotion of ridesharing.

The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project will:

  • Add a 10-mile HOV lane on the northbound I-405 between the I-10 and US-101 Freeways

  • Remove and replace the Skirball Center Dr, Sunset Bl and Mulholland Dr bridges

  • Realign 27 on and off-ramps

  • Widen 13 existing underpasses and structures

  • Construct approximately 18 miles of retaining wall and sound wall
If you read through what they are doing in this huge project, you can sum it up in two sentence fragments...adding some new walls and putting in a lane so Prius drivers can zip past everyone else in old cars.

For starters, an expansion of the 405 is a helpful remedy for LAs gianormous transportation problem on the part of the city/state government in the same way that handing an out of control teenager money to placate them is a helpful remedy of a bad parent. It's painful to watch and it really is only going to make things worse not better, and plus it's a sad waste of resources and money that could be much better spent building a subway.

As Jill Scott would ask "is it the way...?" well yes it is. And the way they are expanding the 405 really sucks. First off, the 405 is so impacted that there really is no good time for them to do the construction. I go northbound on the 405 at short of being there at 5:45AM, i'm really on it at a low traffic time going against the commute...of course it's still backed up in portions. Now part of the reason I believe it is backed up is because there is all this construction stuff hanging about along the side of the freeway like decorative accents on a Sandra Lee tablescape. But this is not the crux of the problem.

The crux of the problem is there is NO room to expand the 405. Thus to my eyes they have
devised all sorts of little "shortcuts" that allow for this room (it doesn't). The foremost shortcut is to eliminate the shoulder between the freeway divider and the lane. Well, I got into that shoulderless lane (the farthest/fastest lane) and it was one of the scariest experiences of my life. One is going 70 MPH and one side are the other cars speeding past you (in my opinion they have trimmed down the space between lanes as well) but then there is no wiggle room between you and the cement divider. Since people drive like idiots now more than needs wiggle room. Trust me, my Honda Civic is complements of the 22 year old who drove into my car while I was driving through a stale green light.

The whole project feels like some late 70s post apocalyptic film where James Caan or James Brolin stars, the production designer places futuristic fiberglass bodies on Datsun chassis and the tagline is Los Angeles, 2010: no police, no government, but justice is found on the DEATH PASS.

Also in addition to having NO space between the The 405 is now on the way to having NO PULL OFF LANE (or whatever it is called where you can pull your car over when it dies or there is a collision, etc)...Now if you want to CREATE traffic problems, make sure there is no side lane.
I was on the 101 between Hollywood and Downtown a few Saturdays ago at 11:00pm...traffic was at a standstill. Why? Because two cars were trapped ON THE FREEWAY as there was no where for them to pull over.
Now, I am probably wrong (hopefully) but it seems they getting rid of the pullover lane on the while they excavate the mountain away, they will have done it all for naught, because once a car stalls in the lane (or gets into an accident by running into the dividing rail due to lack of shoulder) traffic will be as bad as it had been 700 million dollars earlier.

So in conclusion, we learn that no real changes will be made, no trains, no monorails, no nuttin that we really need, but the Sepulveda pass will be bulldozed away in order to make room for another lane that we don't need. But remember if things get bad enough which they will , traffic will lighten up because people will move to Portland where they have light rail or they will just have their cars repossessed, then the 405 will as empty as an Edward Hopper painting.

And here is what is covered by BART:
Notice what is missing. Well The Peninsula (that would be the area a bit below SF where the rich people live)
oh and North Bay/Marin County (that's the area right above SF where other rich people live)

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