Car-Pool Lane Studied for San Diego Freeway

Times Staff Writers

The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission has voted to study the feasibility of establishing a car-pool lane on stretches of the San Diego Freeway between Orange County and just beyond the Ventura Freeway.

By an 11-0 vote, the commission decided last week to form a committee to consider a so-called "diamond lane" that would be restricted to car pools and buses when the freeway is widened in five scheduled projects. The committee also will study other ways to use the lanes.

No existing lanes will be converted to diamond lanes, commission officials said.

Of the five projects, the largest is slated for the South Bay area, where a 13-mile stretch between the Marina and Harbor freeways will be widened from four to five lanes in each direction.

Widening in Long Beach

Another project is planned for the Long Beach area on a 1.2-mile stretch of the freeway between Studebaker Road and Bellflower Boulevard. Only the southbound lanes will be widened.

Other widening will take place on an eight-mile stretch southbound from Route 101 to Wilshire Boulevard. Two smaller projects are scheduled along the freeway farther north in the San Fernando Valley. One will run southbound between Burbank Boulevard and Nordhoff Street; the other northbound between Burbank and Roscoe boulevards.

The vote came less than a week after state Department of Transportation officials announced they were abandoning plans for a diamond lane on the Ventura Freeway eastbound between Topanga Canyon Boulevard and the Hollywood Freeway. The new lane, which will be added by 1990, will be open to all traffic.

Caltrans officials said they were dropping the Ventura Freeway plan after another Transportation Commission committee failed to reach a consensus on whether to designate the new lane as a "diamond lane," which is marked by a diamond-shaped symbol. That committee had voted 22 to 20 for the diamond lane, with three votes cast for no widening.

Caltrans also cited 12,000 letters opposing the diamond lane as a reason for dropping the plan.

Both Caltrans and the Transportation Commission have a policy of considering diamond lanes whenever a freeway is widened. Jacki Bacharach, a Transportation Commission member who is a councilwoman in Rancho Palos Verdes, said the commission's decision last week regarding the San Diego Freeway reaffirms its interest in using such lanes to ease traffic congestion.

"Our freeways are too crowded and money too short" not to consider such lanes, Bacharach said in an interview.

She said that she favors diamond lanes along the San Diego Freeway. "I would have to see what real reasons there are why it wouldn't work," she said, adding that such a lane can always be converted for use by all types of traffic if it proves unsuccessful.

The five widening projects on the San Diego Freeway are included in Caltrans' 1987-88 budget. Although not contiguous, they would cover about 30 miles of freeway. The San Diego Freeway is about 49 miles long between the Ventura Freeway and the Orange County border.

Lanes to Be Narrowed

Caltrans officials said that not all of the San Diego Freeway widening projects are for both northbound and southbound lanes. The fifth lane will be carved out by taking space from the median barrier and narrowing existing lanes from 12 to 11 feet.

The South Bay project will entail taking a foot from each existing lane and seven feet from the median to create a new lane in each direction, said Ed Nahabedian, the Caltrans engineer in charge of the South Bay area.

Nahabedian, who favors a diamond lane, predicted that such a lane would not encounter the same degree of opposition that surfaced in the San Fernando Valley because many of the San Diego Freeway's users would be employees of aerospace companies who are used to taking buses or car pools to work.

Caltrans studies show that an estimated 260,000 vehicles travel the San Diego Freeway each day in both directions between Wilshire Boulevard and the Marina Freeway.

By comparison, an estimated 275,000 vehicles travel the Ventura Freeway each day in both directions between Hayvenhurst Avenue and the Hollywood Freeway.

Diamond lanes are now in operation on three Southern California freeways. Caltrans planners have tentatively identified a dozen freeways in the region where such lanes might be added.

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