Signal Updates Getting Stuck in Traffic : Effort to Speed Computerization Won't Halt Delays, Planners Say

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles transportation planners said Wednesday that they are trying to speed up a much-delayed plan to computerize traffic signals in the southern San Fernando Valley.

But despite their efforts, they said delays will continue. The estimated completion date is 1991, two years later than scheduled.

Speaking before the City Council's Transportation Committee, Transportation Manager S. Edwin Rowe said he has dedicated all the department's design staff to the Valley project. Rowe also asked committee Chairman Nate Holden to encourage the Bureau of Engineering to accelerate its review of those designs.

Rowe said delays in installing the system occur because city crews are backed up working on other projects in the city, which he said were approved by the City Council before the Valley project.

Using private contractors involves a complicated bidding process, Rowe said, but he offered to report to the committee in October on the possibility of contracting out the work. He said the three companies that have bid on identical projects in other parts of the city--including Westwood and Hollywood--usually are busy, too.

Installing the system, known as Automated Traffic Surveillance and Control, will require an in-depth traffic study. The system uses electronic sensors embedded underneath pavement that send traffic information to a City Hall computer over telephone lines. The computer regulates traffic signals to accommodate traffic.

Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar), who criticized the city for the delays at an Aug. 16 committee meeting, said in a telephone interview from Sacramento on Wednesday that he was not satisfied with the progress.

"It's not good enough," Katz said. "It's obvious they're going to do it how they want to do it, when they want to do it."

Katz said he plans to send a letter of complaint to Holden. At the August meeting, Katz scolded the city for failing to spend about $17 million he helped secure more than a year ago for the automated system. The money--which came from state, city and county sources--was to pay for computerizing 382 intersections in the south Valley.

Rowe reiterated Wednesday that the city had completed a stretch of 52 lights on and near Ventura Boulevard between Reseda and Lankershim boulevards.

But Katz pointed out that improvements at those intersections were actually paid for and constructed by the state Department of Transportation in anticipation of traffic congestion on side streets during the Ventura Freeway improvement projects under way.

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