Nearly $50 million in 710 Freeway funds to be diverted to El Sereno & Boyle Heights projects

2014 roundabout concept | City of L.A.

Boyle Heights roundabout will receive $8 million | City of L.A.

New traffic signals in El Sereno and a roundabout in Boyle Heights. These will be some of the local traffic improvements projects that will be funded with nearly $50 million from monies diverted from the now abandoned effort to extend the 710 Freeway.

But some transportation advocates noted that the projects are geared mostly for motorists — not pedestrians, cyclists and others who don’t drive to get around.

Metro, the county transit agency, has been reviewing a long-list of “mobility improvements” to deal with the congestion that has been and will be caused by not extending the controversial freeway, which terminates at Valley Boulevard on the border of El Sereno and Alhambra.

The city is to receive a total of $185 million in county mobility funds. For the first round of projects, Metro has recommended that $48.3 million be spent on these improvements (descriptions come from Metro):

  • $26.33 million for Soto Street Widening Project: Widen Soto Street from three lanes to four lanes from Multnomah Street to Mission Road by adding an additional through lane in the southbound direction to increase the capacity, reduce delay and improve mobility. The project also includes improving/upgrading the signals and lighting at the intersection of Soto and Multnomah.
  • $10 million for El Sereno Traffic Signal Upgrades:  Includes upgrading traffic signals at Huntington Drive, Eastern Avenue and Valley Boulevard in El Sereno to improvement mobility. Work includes installing vehicle loops detectors along Huntington Dr., Eastern Ave., and Valley Blvd.; installing CCTV cameras at the intersections of Valley Blvd and the 710 freeway ramps; upgrade existing signals to add left turn phasing; upgrade all existing and new pedestrian crossings to pedestrian activated crosswalks with actuated signals; installing new crosswalks, signals and left-turn arrows, as necessary.
  • $8 million for Boyle Heights Roundabout: Reconstruct the existing 5-legged intersection at Cesar Chavez Avenue/Lorena Street/Indiana Street into a modern roundabout with a center median to improve mobility and safety.
  • $4 million North Soto Street Bridge Widening: Widen the bridge over Valley Boulevard and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.  The project also includes adding a left turn only lane at the intersection Soto and Alcazar; and improving/upgrading the signals at Soto Street north leading to south to Valley Boulevard.

Some of these projects, like the Soto Street widening, have already begun, while others are in planning stages.

During a meeting of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, Alfonso Directo Jr., a policy analyst  with Investing In Place, a transportation advocacy group, said that the projects were focused solely on improving roadways. He also urged staff to be more open about involving the public in determining how future 710 Freeway mobility funds will be spent.

“We encourage staff to allocate a greater share …. to support people who walk, bike and travel by means other than by driving solo,” Directo said.

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