Transit Officials Say Reversible Lane on Sepulveda Is Infeasible

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A proposal by City Councilman Marvin Braude and RTD Director Nick Patsaouras to ease rush-hour traffic over the Santa Monica Mountains by operating a reversible lane on Sepulveda Boulevard is infeasible, transportation experts said Wednesday.

Los Angeles city and county officials said the proposed method of financing the plan would be a misuse of county mass transit funds and would pose difficult engineering problems.

Braude and Patsaouras touted the $100,000 plan earlier this month as a bargain-basement way to reduce traffic congestion on the San Diego Freeway by, in effect, adding a new lane to Sepulveda, which is a parallel alternative through the pass.

Within hours, Mayor Tom Bradley jumped on the bandwagon and took credit for having urged a similar plan in the past. Sepulveda Pass is one of two major routes into and out of the San Fernando Valley through the mountains.

An average of 273,000 cars per day travel through the pass on the San Diego Freeway. During rush hours, the traffic often averages only 25 m.p.h. to 30 m.p.h., state Department of Transportation data shows.

But various officials, including some in the city's Department of Transportation, say the Braude-Patsaouras plan is unlikely to fly.

The plan called for using county Proposition A sales tax money to add an extra lane of traffic going south on Sepulveda from the Ventura Freeway to Westwood in the morning and going north in the evening. Traffic cones would be shuffled by city workers during the day to reverse the direction of flow in the already existing lane.

But county Transportation Commission analyst Richard DeRock told the city unofficially Wednesday that the project could not be paid for with Proposition A sales tax funds.

"Based on existing commission policy, it's not eligible," DeRock said in an interview. Under the law, Proposition A funds are for mass transit projects. Because Sepulveda Pass is not a regular corridor for buses, the reversible lane would not benefit mass transit, he said.

Braude and Patsaouras had looked to the Proposition A fund--made up of revenue derived from the county's 1/2-cent sales tax--to pay for the project because of the city's tight financial situation this year.

The project also faces difficult design and safety problems.

"The roadway's not wide enough to handle reverse lanes at some points," said Jim Sherman, head of the city Department of Transportation's Bureau of Traffic Management. Freeway columns at underpasses also pose a safety problem because they would split the flow of traffic.

Under study as an alternative is a plan to try a reversible lane for about a half-mile stretch along Sepulveda from the Sepulveda Tunnel to MountainGate Drive, Sherman said.

But that alternative is not good enough, said Braude, who refused to be discouraged by the negative assessments of his proposal.

"I think the plan still has good prospects," he said.

The county Transportation Commission's opinion that the law won't permit Proposition A funding is "a question of interpretation," he said. He also dismissed the safety and design problems, which he said would be correctable.

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