L.A. Council Seeks to Convert 26 Miles Into One-Way Streets

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hoping to ease traffic congestion, the City Council on Tuesday directed transportation officials to devise a way to implement a $20-million plan for converting 26 miles of downtown roadways into one-way streets.

Fourteen roadways including busy Los Angeles Street have been targeted for conversion, with a goal of increasing speed by up to 50% and reducing accidents by as much as 40%, city officials said.

Under a proposal authored by Councilman Nate Holden, the roadways would be converted one at a time over a five-year period beginning with a stretch of 8th and 9th streets between the Harbor Freeway and Wilton Place, west of Civic Center.

Later, the conversions would extend in all directions from the Civic Center district, where most of the one-way streets are concentrated.

"The council took an important step forward, a step that is long overdue," Holden said. "Now, we can focus our sights on moving traffic in and out of downtown quickly and safely."

However, council members Mike Hernandez and Rita Walters--whose 9th District embraces much of the downtown core--questioned whether the plan was feasible, given the city's worsening financial crisis.

"It can only happen if we can find the money to do it," agreed Thomas Conner, assistant general manager of the city's Department of Transportation.

Meanwhile, the council approved a motion authored by Hernandez requiring Transportation Department officials to study any impact the plan could have on emergency vehicle response times, access to local businesses and the access of children to schools and senior citizens to medical facilities.

Downtown merchants and Southern California Rapid Transit District officials had already expressed concerns that additional one-way streets downtown would hurt business, confuse drivers and force the RTD to reroute its buses.

In an effort to appease opponents, Broadway has been excluded from the plan that would be mostly funded by developers' fees and gas tax funds, and accompanied by a significant public relations campaign, city officials said.

In addition, officials would consider adding a contra-flow lane for buses on each one-way street, Conner said, "although that will be difficult to do on some streets."

The city's first downtown one-way street system was implemented in 1947 on 5th and 6th streets. Later, more than 100 miles of roadways including Spring and Main streets were converted to enhance traffic flow in the downtown core.

The first one-way streets in the nation were installed in Philadelphia in 1906. New York and Boston installed them soon after.

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