For Rush Hours : Council Backs Truck Ban for Freeway Work

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council voted Friday to seek state and federal approval to ban trucks from the Ventura Freeway during rush hours while a widening is under way.

City transportation experts, however, have said it will be difficult to obtain approval of the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration for a truck ban because a convenient alternate route is unavailable.

The closest alternate freeway route is the Simi Valley Freeway, which turns into a two-lane residential street through Moorpark. There are no surface streets parallel to the 101 Freeway west of Calabasas.

Officials of the state and federal highway agencies declined to speculate Friday on the chances of a truck ban receiving approval. Nor would they comment on whether the Simi Valley Freeway would be an acceptable alternate route.

'Matter of Months'

A Caltrans official said it would probably take "a matter of months" for state and federal officials to act on the city's request.

City officials said Friday that the truck ban would be a pilot program that could be instituted in other parts of Southern California, if successful on the Ventura Freeway.

Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, a leading proponent of the ban, expressed confidence that it will be implemented once freeway work begins and "the public blows up."

"And they will," he added, "because the situation is going to be horrible once the construction starts."

A four-year project to add a lane to each side of the freeway, between the Hollywood Freeway and Valley Circle Boulevard, will begin sometime from mid-February to mid-March, according to Caltrans.

Trucks account for 2% to 3% of the traffic on the Ventura Freeway in the West San Fernando Valley during rush hours, from 6:30 to 9 a.m. and from 3 to 6 p.m., according to Caltrans. But, even though the volume of trucks is low, supporters of the ban argued Friday, a truck accident could tie up the freeway for hours.

The council vote to seek the ban was unanimous, and it came over the objections of trucking industry spokesmen, who contended that a truck ban would be discriminatory.

Cites Discrimination

"There are other means to limit freeway use, which are just as effective and just as discriminatory," said Jack L. France, managing director of the Highway Carriers Assn., which represents 700 carriers.

He added sarcastically: "For example, all green vehicles could be asked to avoid the freeway on Mondays, all yellow vehicles on Tuesdays, all red vehicles on Wednesdays, etc. Or perhaps all Italians could avoid the freeway on Mondays, all Hispanics on Tuesday, all Irish on Wednesday."

France expressed concern that a truck ban on the Ventura Freeway would lead to truck restrictions on other freeways, "an idea that will disrupt and perhaps destroy the economy of California."

"When the public must stand in line and wait for goods to be delivered to the local supermarket, clothing or furniture store . . . it will be because trucks were not allowed to deliver on schedule," he said.

He also predicted that, "come 9 o'clock in the morning," the freeway is going to be jammed" from trucks getting on it at the same time.

Councilwoman Joy Picus, whose West Valley district parallels the Ventura Freeway, supported the ban but predicted that it would force big rigs onto surface streets "that go through our districts, my district in particular." She warned her colleagues to expect a barrage of complaints from residents who use those streets.

Yaroslavsky responded that he expects trucks to reschedule deliveries so that they can use the freeway rather surface streets, if the rush-hour ban is approved.

"Either the trucking industry is going to have to make an adjustment or the hundreds of thousands of people who commute on the Ventura Freeway have to make an adjustment," Yaroslavsky said.

Backs Double-Decking

Councilman Hal Bernson, whose district includes the Simi Valley Freeway, supported the ban but complained that Caltrans should be double-decking the Ventura Freeway instead of adding just one lane in each direction.

The council also voted 13 to 0 to lift restrictions on early-morning and late-night deliveries to encourage trucks to voluntarily avoid the freeway during peak commuting hours.

The council voted to relax a noise-control ordinance that prohibits loading and unloading of vehicles within 200 feet of a residence between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Enforcement of the ordinance was suspended during the 1984 Olympics, a move credited with helping to bring about smooth-flowing freeways during the Summer Games.

Under the measure, truckers would be allowed to make deliveries an hour earlier, starting at 6 a.m., and an hour later, to 11 p.m., subject to receiving a permit from the Police Department. Permits would not be issued for noisy operations, such as trash pickup, under the council action.

Expanded delivery hours would be limited to an area bounded by Ventura and Victory boulevards, the San Diego Freeway and the western city limits.

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