Mayor Prohibits Rush Hour Road Work
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued an executive order Friday to stop city road crews from doing construction during the morning and afternoon rush hours, a policy that originated after a member of the City Council got stuck in a construction-induced traffic jam earlier this year.
The order affects only city work crews and bans them from doing all but emergency and major infrastructure projects on city streets from 6 to 9 a.m. and from 3:30 to 7 p.m.
Pending legislation by Councilwoman Wendy Greuel would extend that ban to private companies, such as utilities, and would include an enforcement program to fine violators.
“You’ve heard me say that getting stuck in traffic is not just an inconvenience anymore,” Villaraigosa said.
“It keeps us away from our families, it pollutes our environment and costs our economy, and the poor condition of Los Angeles streets contributes to this congestion.”
The executive ban on construction in rush hour is a result of an incident involving Greuel earlier this year.
The councilwoman was on her way to an 8 a.m. breakfast meeting when, three minutes from home, she found herself in bumper-to-bumper traffic in Studio City, the result of a city crew having closed down a major arterial.
The normally easygoing Greuel was steamed. She grabbed her cellphone and did what comes naturally and dialed City Hall to complain.
“I called Bill Robertson and asked him what was going on,” she recalled, referring to the director of the Bureau of Street Services.
The answer: The city crew had jumped the gun and started work too early.
Greuel and her staff then discovered that, years ago, the city had adopted a policy banning work during rush hour. It just wasn’t being enforced. Her motion on the construction ban was introduced that day.
Greuel’s pending legislation will make that policy part of the city’s law. It also would carry an escalating series of fines starting at $250 for a first offense and rising to $1,000 for a third offense. Those getting caught with a fourth offense would face misdemeanor charges.
There are 16,400 permits to do road work issued each year in Los Angeles. Because the policy hasn’t been enforced, no one is sure how many crews are working during rush hour and exactly what the impact of the ban will be.
Greuel’s motion cleared two council committees on Friday and is scheduled to go before the full council on Wednesday. It appears to face little opposition, even from private firms such as Southern California Edison.
“We’re evaluating what the language will be when it goes to the full council to make sure that it doesn’t affect the ratepayers,” said Maryann Reyes, the director of public affairs for the utility. “We currently abide by all city permits, so it’s something that we’re supportive of.”
Caltrans, the state transportation agency, bans most work on freeways during rush hour in metropolitan areas.
“We try not to do it in rush hour, unless it’s something that is an emergency and the work has to be done right away,” said Mark DeSio, a Caltrans spokesman.
Also on Friday, Villaraigosa announced that the city would use $11 million from state Proposition 42’s gasoline sales taxes to fix about 50 miles of city roads.
The 50 miles are on top of the 200 miles of road that the city plans to resurface this fiscal year. About 300 more miles will get a temporary fix with slurry seal.
In addition, $5.5 million of Proposition 42 money will go to fix storm-damaged roads around the city. The mayor said the list of fixes is “very, very long.”
However, the money will hardly put a dent in the backlog of troubled roads in the city.
Los Angeles has about 6,500 miles of roads, of which almost two-thirds are suffering cracks, dimples, crevices or other car-threatening problems, according to city officials.
“There are about 3,000 miles of roads that require some type of resurfacing,” said Robertson. “There are another 1,000 miles of actual failed streets.”
Before World War II, Los Angeles had about 2,500 miles of roads. In those years, the city had a policy of repairing about 50 miles per year. After the war, the city boomed and more roads were built. But the city continued to fix only 50 miles per year until the mid-1980s.
Over the last two decades, the city has increased that number, but has never resurfaced more than 275 miles in a year. Robertson said it would require $1.5 billion over the next decade to get all the roads properly restored.
Villaraigosa said that he will work to continue to find funding to fix roads. “When people ask where is the money going to come from,” the mayor said, “it’s going to come from the savings we get and the productivity we get from clearing up that traffic.”