Boulevard Braces for Traffic Surge

Times Staff Writer

Kathy Neil pumped 10.8 gallons of unleaded Mobil into her car as midmorning traffic on Hawthorne Boulevard streamed past the soon-to-be-opened Galleria at South Bay.

"It's always bad on Hawthorne," the Xerox employee said one day last week. "I hope it doesn't get too bad."

A few miles down the road, Del Amo Fashion Center President James Jones was also gloomily watching Hawthorne Boulevard traffic. He predicted that traffic jams on Hawthorne caused by the Galleria will hurt Del Amo. "It, in essence, turns the customer off who finds it difficult to get to you," he said.

But one man's jam is another man's meat and potatoes.

Haroon Surkhabi, 36, owner of the Mobil station across from the Galleria, now pumps 18,000 to 20,000 gallons of gasoline a week. He said he expects to pump 25,000 gallons a week once the mall opens, siphoning off motorists who came to shop.

'Will Create Jobs'

"It will create jobs," he said. "I am for any improvement in the area."

While the opinions on the benefit of mall-related traffic on Hawthorne vary with the beholder, no one disputes that the $70-million conversion of the former South Bay Shopping Center into the Galleria will generate more traffic, particularly right after the opening on Monday.

In fact, Galleria personnel and state transportation officials are bracing for a vehicular onslaught.

State planning engineer Ed Nahabedian expects an initial 25% increase in weekend traffic. That would boost peak traffic on Hawthorne from 2,600 vehicles an hour to 3,250.

Nahabedian predicts a drop in the increased traffic after curiosity about the mall dies down. "I will try to be out there just to observe the traffic," Nahabedian said. He predicts a 10% rise for the whole year--"a significant increase."

Keep Jams to a Minimum

During the opening weeks, mall security forces and management personnel and off-duty police--about 40 strong altogether--will be on hand at intersections and in the parking lot to see that traffic jams are kept to a minimum. No extra police details are planned in Redondo Beach, where the mall is located, or in adjacent Torrance and Lawndale.

Nahabedian predicted that, after the initial surge, the streets near the mall will be able to carry the increased traffic without major problems. Residents of the neighborhoods near the mall, located on the southwest corner of Hawthorne and Artesia boulevards, have lived for years with a shopping center on the site and have not made an issue of traffic problems.

The mall's impact on congestion will be muted somewhat, Nahabedian explained, because most shoppers use the mall in slack traffic periods. However, in several years the traffic increase from the mall and other projects now under construction could lead to serious traffic congestion along Hawthorne Boulevard, he said.

The only immediate problem he sees is the possibility of a bottleneck in the northbound lanes of Hawthorne as cars stack up to turn left at 177th Street. The state expects the number of left turns to double to about 500 during peak hours once the mall opens.

"Without any improvement, it means delay," Nahabedian said.

Left Turn Lanes

The state has asked the mall developer to pay for two 250-foot, left-turn lanes at the corner, an improvement that was not requested in the original environmental impact report. The cost for the two lanes is estimated at $100,000 to $150,000.

Brian M. Jones, vice president of Forest City Development Corp. of Cleveland, the Galleria's developer, said in a telephone interview that his company will not do the work unless traffic jams develop.

"We are going to keep an eye on that and if it (traffic) becomes a problem, we are going to do something about that immediately," Jones said.

Once inside the mall parking lot, shoppers have more than 5,000 parking spaces to choose from, or they can take advantage of valet parking for $2 at the main entrance to the mall between the Nordstrom and May Co. stores.

Convenient Parking

Officials at the Galleria claim that parking there will be much more convenient than at Del Amo.

"One of our goals, because of Del Amo's perceived confusing parking situation, was to provide ample directional signage to make it easier to shop," said Randy Brant, vice president in charge of leasing for Forest City Rental Properties. He said the mall's three-story design makes it "easier to find your car than a horizontal design."

For those who want to take the bus, the RTD, Torrance Transit and Gardena Bus Lines will provide regular bus service to the mall.

RTD routes are Nos. 40, 130, 210 an 211 and express routes 442, 443 and 444. Torrance Transit route Nos. 2 and 8 will stop at the mall, as will Gardena's No. 3. In addition, the Lawndale trolley and Redondo Beach's American Trolley will make stops at the mall.

Future bus riders will be able to wait at a $2.1-million transit terminal at the northwest corner of the mall, expected to be completed in about a year. The terminal will have eight bus bays, restrooms, telephones, information, vending machines and seating. It is being built with funds from a $1.7-million grant from the U.S. Urban Mass Transportation Administration and $450,000 in Proposition A money from Redondo Beach.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World