Metro Grants San Marino $10 Million After 710 Project’s Demise

San Marino will be able to move forward on long-hoped-for traffic signal synchronization projects since the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has granted about $10 million for the projects from the now-dead 710 Freeway initiative.
Director of Parks and Public Works Michael Throne said he expects the funds to be part of more than $36 million San Marino will receive from Metro in the coming years for five projects. The $10 million that San Marino was just awarded is among more than $337 million in San Gabriel Valley projects that were recently funded.
Of San Marino’s award, $7 million will cover signal synchronization at 11 Huntington Drive intersections between Atlantic and Rosemead boulevards, with the remaining $3 million covering the synchronization at seven San Gabriel Boulevard intersections between Colorado Boulevard and Longden Drive/Avenue.
“It’s a lot of agencies that are going to benefit from this,” Throne said. “It’ll make a lot of people happy for a variety of reasons.”
The synchronization will use technology at each of the intersections to measure how quickly a group of cars passes through the intersection, which will adjust how quickly the following signal will change. The system will help ensure that large groups of motorists can travel down Huntington Drive or San Gabriel Boulevard without having to stop for a traffic signal.
“As the group of cars moves through the signals, the signals will be able to count the cars, judge the group’s speed and adaptively alter its program just enough to move that group of cars from one side of San Marino to another without a stop,” Throne said.
Metro is targeting traffic projects that are being developed to accommodate traffic congestion issues that theoretically would have been assuaged by the controversial 710 tunnel project, had it been completed. Officials had decided a better use of the $780 million earmarked for the project, courtesy of the Measure R sales tax, would be various smaller projects developed by their own communities.
For San Marino, Huntington Drive in particular represents a daily headache for residents, whose neighborhoods see increased through-traffic whenever navigation apps such as Google Maps send drivers down side streets to bypass traffic jams.
“You want them on the main road,” Throne said of motorists. “The main road is designed for that quantity of cars. The neighborhood streets are meant to be low volume and quiet. By making it easier to pass through town, it will short-circuit people wanting to use side roads to avoid congestion along Huntington Drive.”
The synchronization also will take into account pedestrian crosswalk-signal interactions, Throne explained.
“Right now, if you press the pedestrian button, you’re actually controlling traffic,” he said. “With the traffic synchronization, it’ll be the smart time for the pedestrian to cross, not just when they push the button. That way, it will fit in with the broader concept of moving as many cars as possible through the city.”
Although the project extends beyond San Marino’s borders, the city will be the lead agency for the entire effort because most of the project’s footprint is within city limits. As San Marino works on engineering, it will bring in public works departments from the other involved areas and strive to connect everything together.
Metro board member Kathryn Barger, the District 5 Los Angeles County supervisor and a San Marino resident, lauded the local efforts to alleviate traffic congestion.
“This is the first step in finally being
able to bring relief to our cities that have suffered for decades due to the 710 Gap,” she said in a statement. “These projects were the result of a bottom-up process, where the cities identified their priority projects to address congestion. The cities will continue working with Metro staff to refine the scope of these projects, and it’s imperative that we look at things with a regional approach so that any one city’s improvements don’t push the problem into another city.”
Metro will formally cut the checks in 2020, after which there is a four-year window for the money to be spent. Throne, who said he has successfully developed and implemented synchronization projects in other communities, said engineering would take about a year and that the work itself would involve installing hardware into existing signal infrastructure.
“Signal synchronization corridors are a proven tool to help relieve congestion,” Barger added in her statement. “I applaud the city of San Marino for prioritizing this in the first round of funding.”
The work would minimally affect traffic while it’s happening and could involve directly connecting all of the signals together or utilizing signal transmission via satellite.
“It’s going to really depend on what sort of technology we end up with,” Throne said. “That’s all to be determined.”
The city’s Public Safety Commission plans to discuss the future project at its Jan. 21 meeting.

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