Caltrans Tries to Ease Concern Over Freeway Project

A team of Caltrans personnel at Tuesday’s City Council meeting tried to assure residents their ideas would work for decreasing local traffic congestion during a major freeway resurfacing project.
Their audience — including members of La Cañada Flintridge’s City Council — did not seem moved.
The $148.5-million job — which, among other improvements, is replacing 90 lane-miles of pavement between Dunsmore Avenue in La Crescenta and Los Robles Avenue in Pasadena — is scheduled to continue through summer 2018, according to Reza Fateh, the project manager.
He said concrete paving on the eastbound 210 Freeway is anticipated to be completed by June. Work on the westbound 210 Freeway between Lowell Avenue and Ocean View Boulevard should be done by September.
That work on the freeways has led to substantial congestion on the surface streets in LCF. It’s turned Foothill Boulevard, Verdugo Boulevard and Descanso Drive into virtual parking lots on weekdays during early evening hours and sent drivers — steered by navigation apps such as Waze — streaming through smaller residential streets.
Residents at Tuesday’s meeting complained that it took them 45 minutes to travel a few blocks. Mayor Jonathan Curtis said the Youth and Government program at the Crescenta Cañada YMCA was short 40 members last week on account of the snarled traffic.
With such reports in mind, Caltrans officials said they plan to implement a handful of mitigation options, including asking the California Highway Patrol to enhance patrols along the freeway. (But between 9 a.m.-3 p.m., and not during the most congested period).
They also said they expect to have additional “portable, changeable message” signs up to warn motorists of road work ahead, which they’re hoping will split the traffic between earlier exits and relieve the congestion on Ocean View and Foothill.
Fateh said he anticipates that when the currently closed Pennsylvania Avenue on-ramps and off-ramps are reopened in a couple of weeks, it also will reduce the local jamming.
Curtis didn’t seem to think those measures would solve all the problems, and wondered whether a sign couldn’t be put up warning motorists that Foothill Boulevard was congested and recommending “local traffic only” as a “mitigation measure.”
Fateh said he would have to check with the legal department about it, but “if they say OK, I wouldn’t mind.”
Sushil Chaudhari, one of the engineers on the project, reported that work has been completed between Dunsmore and New York avenues and that “a good deal” of the work from the eastbound Pennsylvania off-ramp to La Crescenta on-ramp also was done.
“Just keep in mind,” he said, “it was a wet January; we had almost a whole month of rain, during which the contractor was unable to work at night. But I think you’ll see a good acceleration of work coming up.”
Curtis said the city will compile more thoughts to share with Caltrans staffers in an effort to help them monitor the situation.
“We don’t not appreciate the fact that the freeways are getting redone,” he said. “We do greatly appreciate that.”
POWER CONSULTANTS

All five Council members agreed to bring aboard a consultant to help the city monitor Southern California Edison’s planned improvements, voting to pay PCMC a maximum of $27,700 for the work.
The move stems from three major unplanned outages in September that affected more than 1,300 residents between Chevy Chase Boulevard and Gould Avenue, said Edward Hitti, Public Works director.
Since then, SCE has replaced 9,000 linear feet of underground line and has plans to upgrade lines in the affected area from 4k to 16k capabilities, said Curtis, who suggested that the improvements already completed must have worked because there have not been reports of significant unplanned outages lately.
Still, the council liked the idea of having help in evaluating SCE’s work.
“Staff doesn’t have the level of expertise to know what should be done,” City Manager Mark Alexander said. “Edison could be doing all the right things, and we think they probably are, but it’s helpful to us to have that third party come and advise us.”
Spokesman Adrian Garcia said SCE would be happy to work with the consultants, but he did have some questions regarding the scope of their oversight. He warned that SCE wouldn’t be able to share information that was either proprietary or private and confidential.

CITY HALL PURCHASE

The City Council took another step toward its new City Hall, unanimously approving the purchase and close of escrow to acquire the former Sport Chalet headquarters in the Town Center.
Without debate, council members agreed to appropriate $5.4 million for the remaining cash purchase and another $100,000 to cover closing costs. A promissory note of $5.58 million, secured by a deed of trust, will cover the rest of the $11.23 million purchase.
“It’s a big step and we all agree it’s the right step; it’s a good thing for the city,” Councilman Michael Davitt said. “I would say that to spend this kind of money for a city our size is a little bit of a shocker, but the leadership that the council [and city staff] showed on this was extraordinary.”
The council also approved of the renaming of Sport Chalet Drive, which will become Civic Center Drive.

MARIJUANA PERMIT FEE

Council members voted unanimously to amend the city’s master fee schedule to include permits of personal indoor cultivation of marijuana. Going forward, residents will pay a $530 application fee to grow marijuana; those funds will go toward staff hours spent processing a one-time application.

TRAIL CLOSURE

Recent rains have led to the temporary closure of a small segment of Flint Canyon Trail south of the Flintridge tennis courts. Hitti said the slope at three separate locations caved in and undermined the trail.

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