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Closures for Construction : Slow-Going San Diego Freeway Gets Slower

Times Urban Affairs Writer

It’s usually slow-going for motorists on the San Diego Freeway in West Los Angeles and Culver City, but traffic is crawling along the busy route even slower now and will stay that way through the remainder of the year.

Since late May, traffic tie-ups have become almost commonplace, especially during late night and early morning hours, along an 11-mile stretch of the freeway where ramps are being closed as part of a six-month upgrading project.

Later, all the freeway’s lanes--which carry some of the heaviest traffic loads on the Los Angeles region’s freeway system--will be closed at various times as crews tackle other parts of a $2.5-million rehabilitation job.

Catching many motorists by surprise, the work so far has been confined to on- and off-ramps--a total of 37--along the length of the project from La Tijera Boulevard near Los Angeles International Airport north to Sunset Boulevard near UCLA.

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Most of the work is being done at night, in the early morning hours and on weekends, according to California Department of Transportation officials.

But as off-peak summertime traffic increases and the freeway repair locations change, bumper-to-bumper traffic could develop almost anytime, although, Caltrans officials explained, the entire project has been scheduled to cause the least-possible disruption of traffic flows.

“The job has been causing concern to people who live and work in the West Los Angeles area,” a Caltrans spokesman said. “The work . . . can take people by surprise. We’re advising them to use caution and reduce speed traveling through that area.”

So far, the work has been especially disturbing to motorists traveling south from the San Fernando Valley and north from Los Angeles International Airport, which is expecting a record influx of summer travelers during an especially heavy vacation season.

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On an average day, traffic along the West Los Angeles-Culver City section of the San Diego Freeway runs as high as 253,000 cars, trucks and other vehicles at a point just north of the Santa Monica Freeway. Traffic counts show that it drops off to about 220,000 vehicles at Sunset Boulevard and the same number at Culver Boulevard.

During the lengthy freeway upgrading job, Caltrans officials said that, while various lanes and ramps will be closed at different times, the freeway itself will remain open except for a few nights--possibly as many as six--in early September for upgrading work at Exposition and National boulevards. During this period traffic will be rerouted through the San Diego-Santa Monica freeways interchange to surface streets in order to bypass the freeway construction zones.

Caltrans officials said the freeway rehabilitation project should be finished in mid-November, although clean-up jobs and bad weather could prolong the work through December and even into January. The project and its effect on ramps and freeway lane closures include these main phases:

- Three to four ramps closed each night from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. weekdays and on weekends from 7 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday. Ramp closures will be made through Aug. 21 with no two consecutive ramps closed at the same time.

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- Fast lanes closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. weekdays from mid-July to Sept. 1.

- Regular lanes at approaches to bridges--where the freeway crosses over other roadways--closed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights only from mid-July to mid-November.

- San Diego-Santa Monica interchange connector ramps closed for four weekend nights in August and September.

- Approaches to Exposition and National boulevards closed for six nights in early September with traffic rerouted through the interchange to surface streets.

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Because the San Diego Freeway ranks as the most heavily used route to and from Los Angeles International Airport, Clifton Moore, general manager of the Department of Airports, said he hopes the construction work would be completed as rapidly as possible.

“We’re gravely concerned about traffic on the San Diego Freeway,” he explained. “Anything that impedes the flow . . . would affect travelers going to or leaving the airport.”

Despite calls from the public inquiring about the disruptions on the freeway, the Caltrans public information office notified the news media before work began and explained the impact on the traveling public, as the agency does on all projects of this magnitude, a Caltrans official said.

Tom Fera, Caltrans’ resident engineer on the San Diego Freeway project, said signs are also being posted along the freeway two ramps ahead of those to be closed.

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“People can also call us about a specific lane or ramp closure--or anything else they want to know about the project,” he said. “The number: (818) 896-0410.”

Times staff writer Peter Pae contributed to this article.


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