The expected traffic nightmare caused by the closing of the 4th Street on-ramp to the Santa Monica Freeway was realized last week despite signs announcing the closure.
As motorists sought alternate routes to get on the freeway's eastbound lanes, more than a dozen gridlock citations were issued to drivers who had inched their vehicles into intersections after traffic lights turned red Wednesday, the first day of the closure.
Scott McKenzie, Caltrans resident engineer for the project, said such traffic problems are common for the first few days of any road closure.
"We put stuff out announcing the closure, but people, they are on automatic pilot and they don't read the signs," McKenzie said. "When we close a street, it's still like a shock to people. It'll take a week or two for people to figure things out."
The 4th Street ramp is to be closed for more than a year as part of a $5-million construction project, financed jointly by the state and federal governments. The project is designed to ease congestion at the Lincoln Boulevard on-ramp to the eastbound Santa Monica Freeway between Pico and Olympic boulevards.
The project, which is not expected to be completed until May, 1992, involves the construction of a new on-ramp about 100 feet from 4th Street over the existing Lincoln Boulevard off-ramp, which will also be lowered.
The 4th Street on-ramp was a frontage road south of the freeway designed to move traffic to the Lincoln Boulevard on-ramp and to provide access to a small apartment building and to Santa Monica High School.
When the project is completed, the frontage road will remain, but it will be narrowed from two lanes to one.
Also shut down last week as part of the construction project was the freeway's eastbound off-ramp to Lincoln Boulevard. It is expected to be closed for nine months.
The eastbound lanes of the freeway between 4th and 20th Street will also be widened, which will require tearing down a pedestrian walkway that crosses the freeway at 7th Street. The crossing, which is used primarily by students going to the high school, will not be replaced, McKenzie said.
Police Sgt. Bill Brucker said the gridlock citations were issued to motorists stuck in intersections along Lincoln Boulevard at Broadway, Pico Boulevard and Colorado Avenue.
Brucker said that if traffic problems do not ease up within a week or two, traffic signals may be adjusted to accommodate the additional traffic on the Lincoln Boulevard on-ramp to the freeway.