Are Intersection Changes Really Necessary?

Double the capacity for left-turn lanes off Huntington Drive at two major intersections? Not so fast.
The City Council last week put the brakes on a plan to reconfigure the Huntington Drive intersections at San Marino Avenue and San Gabriel Boulevard to create an extra turn lane for eastbound traffic heading north onto those two thoroughfares. Instead, it will have the city traffic engineer study the intersections for three months to determine if there is a pressing need for the changes.
The action stems from the city’s proposal three years ago to modify the two intersections in the interests of increased traffic flow and safety. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved the city’s plan and agreed to provide the bulk of the money for enhancements that would include wider sidewalks, bulb-outs, bus shelters, pedestrian-level streetlights and crosswalk improvements. The city has agreed to put up 35% of the cost — a portion that has risen 12.4% to $505,850 in three years.
The council last week approved the funding agreement with Metro, but with a proviso tacked on, at the insistence of Councilman Richard Ward: The city will first conduct a traffic study to determine the impacts of the project.
There was little doubt that two lanes of traffic turning north on green arrows will clear the intersections of vehicles more expeditiously, but some wondered if that is necessarily a good thing, given the natural tendency of commuters to find quicker routes to the 210 Freeway.
Councilman Dr. Steven Huang, who ultimately abstained in the affirmative vote to approve the funding agreement, asked, “Will it increase traffic on Huntington Drive because it makes it easier to turn onto San Marino and San Gabriel?”
City Public Works Director Chris Vogt responded: “There’s always the potential. ‘Build it and they will come’ is something that happens when you improve streets.”
The council’s decision enables San Marino to pick its way along a delicate course, at minimal expense to the city. City Manager John Schaefer said the next step in the process would be to retain a firm to design the project, but that cost likely would not be reimbursed if the council subsequently decided to reject the intersection project.
“We’ll eat it,” City Attorney Steve Dorsey said of the design work cost. “If I’m MTA and I give you a grant to build something and you don’t build it, they’re not going to give you the money.”
Instead, the council has opted for an in-house study of the intersections by its traffic engineer, at considerably less cost. If the engineer at that point suggests a scaled-back project, Metro could reject the modifications and pull out of the deal. The improvement money would disappear, but it is a risk the council seems willing to take as it gauges the true need for the double turn lanes.

The City Council plans to hold a public workshop before its meeting of July 13 to determine the way forward for two city buildings that are a bit worse for wear: the Recreation Department’s headquarters at the former Stoneman School and the San Marino Center.
Interim Recreation Director Cindy Collins will provide an analysis of department services and users of services, as well as an assessment of the strengths and shortcomings of the two facilities. “We’ll do an overlay to determine where our needs actually are,” she said.
The sooner the better, said Mayor Dr. Allan Yung, who expressed frustration that Stoneman, particularly, has been haggled over for years without significant action being taken.

• Planning and Building Director Aldo Cervantes said he is considering requiring that only licensed architects submit building plans for hazardous areas such as earthquake fault zones.
• In the never-ending saga of the Lacy Park Rose Arbor, Schaefer reported that the contractor hired to replace rotting timbers found the problem to be more extensive than expected, doubling the cost of the project. So it is on hold yet again.
• Recreation Commissioners John Flynn and Yu-Wen Cheng-Taylor have informed the city that they do not wish to continue in those roles when their terms expire at the end of June. They’ll be recognized for their service at the July 13 City Council meeting.

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