Echo Park-Silver Lake freeway project takes another detour

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For more than a decade, Echo Park and Silver Lake residents, traffic engineers, consultants and political leaders have been working on a plan to rebuild the often jammed and chaotic southern tip of the 2 Freeway, which comes to an abrupt end at Glendale Boulevard. It looked like a resolution was finally at hand this summer when an official with the Metropolitan Transit Authority indicated support for a proposal created by residents, who want to squeeze out additional parkland and other public amenities from the project. But, at a meeting tonight, MTA officials will explain why the agency can’t get behind the residents’ proposal and will need more time and money to study yet another idea to untangle what’s officially called the State Route 2 Terminus. It’s the most recent setback for a $12 million project that when completed still won’t provide much relief for motorists stuck in traffic.

“Is it going to improve traffic? I don’t think so,” said Echo Park resident Peter Lassen of the newest proposal the MTA wants to study. “What does it do for the community? Nothing.”

Community activists like Lassen as well as MTA officials have inherited the problem caused more than 40 years ago when a coalition of Echo Park and Silver Lake residents prevented highway builders from extending the 2 Freeway south through the neighborhoods. The freeway ends just south of where it crosses the 5 Freeway before it narrows, dumping traffic onto Glendale Boulevard. Federal funds totaling about $12 million were allocated in the 1990s to fix the freeway stub, thus giving birth to the State Route 2 Freeway Terminus Improvement Project. Since then, state and local officials focused on improving traffic management and safety have been locked in a struggle with residents seeking to keep the freeway from overwhelming nearby neighborhoods. “They seem to want to move more traffic,” said activist Judy Raksin, which has been following the project since the beginning. “We want to move traffic more smoothly.”

Earlier this decade, residents were successful in getting their proposal, called Alternative D, to be studied along with designs. Alternative D (pictured below) would transform the freeway bridge now crossing above Glendale Boulevard into an elevated public plaza and create more green space near the Tommy Lasorda Field of Dreams. It’s the proposal that the MTA staff appeared to be ready to endorse, according to residents who heard presentations this summer. But, while MTA staff might have supported the idea, their partners at Caltrans and the city’s Department of Transportation opposed it for numerous reasons, according to Chester Britt, a community relations consultant working on the study. All three agencies must agree on the terminus proposal. So, the MTA staff came up with yet another idea that combines elements of the previous proposals studied over the year. The idea, as presented to Lassen and other residents, keeps the bridge over Glendale Boulevard for motorists and realigns some other lanes. That would fall far short of what Lassen and others have wanted.

Britt said the MTA board will be asked for money to study this most recent idea before it can be finalized and, with the blessing of the board and other agencies, implemented. There is concern among local elected officials that the $12 million allocated for the project may be lost if a decision is not made soon, Britt said. “Giving the money back is not an option,” Britt said. “If there is consensus on anything … it is that we need to make a decision. We need to make a that final decision and stand by it and live with it.”

Yet, even if the MTA and other agencies finally reach a consensus on how to spend that $12 million and take several years to fix the 2 Freeway terminus, what will it mean for motorists? Not much, concedes Britt, who said the goal is to improve traffic safety and management.

The project will not necessarily “mean that you are going to relieve traffic congestion,” Britt said. “There is just too much demand and not much room.”

Related Links:
* 2 Freeway Terminus Redesign. Corralitas Red Car Property

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