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Seeing the light at the end of the bottleneck

Any day now, we should be closing in on answers to the many questions posed in this space and on the Bottleneck Blog by traffic-weary readers.

What will L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky propose to ease Westside traffic misery, and if it’s really good stuff, will readers finally forgive Yaroslavsky for years of subway opposition?

Why did a real estate company in Chicago spend $100,000 on L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s school takeover bid?

Why is the chief of transit in Los Angeles -- outed months ago by my colleague Steve Hymon -- still commuting to work by Hummer instead of by bus or train?

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Yaroslavsky, who is thinking about proposing that major thoroughfares be turned into one-way streets, got this whole thing started a couple weeks ago with a question: Why does he have to travel abroad to find innovative solutions to gridlock?

Yaroslavsky’s office tells me that he will soon be drawing up a short-list of do-able fixes.

And as for the Chicago real estate company’s $100,000 check to Villaraigosa’s school takeover campaign, it’s kind of fun to speculate as we await the official explanation. Sure, a cynic might say it had something to do with the fact that the company’s affiliate has a mega-condo project in the works in Century City, with Villaraigosa’s support.

But Villaraigosa press secretary Matt Szabo assured me there’s nothing fishy about it.

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“There’s absolutely no connection whatsoever,” between the donation and the mayor’s support of the twin 47-story behemoth, which neighbors say will make deplorable traffic all the more unbearable.

I had trouble getting an explanation out of the Chicago office of JMB Realty last night, so here are my top three guesses on the $100,000 donation:

1. Chicago is sending us all its dropouts and this was a down payment.

2. People in Chicago, home of The Times’ parent company, think they should own everything in Los Angeles.

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3. Villaraigosa is the player to be named later when the Cubs signed slugger Alfonso Soriano.

Given the generosity of the Chicago real estate company, I’m wondering if it could send another hundred thousand bucks so Villaraigosa can hire a transit boss who drives something a little more sensible than a Hummer. Like maybe a coal-powered locomotive.

Szabo assured me Tuesday night that I’ll finally have my get-together with Jaime de la Vega today. Don’t be surprised, Szabo said, to hear that de la Vega is hard at work locating funding for the subway to the sea and otherwise implementing Villaraigosa’s vision of the city of the future.

Szabo said the mayor is going to synchronize every light in the city, regionalize air traffic, modernize LAX, complete the 405 carpool lane and the Expo line, and figure out a way to address Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed diversion of gas taxes away from public transit.

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You’ve got to love the mayor’s boundless ambition, but I’ll believe all that when I see it.

And as for de la Vega, I still say he should be gone by Easter if he doesn’t start driving something smaller than the Rose Bowl.

Besides, we don’t need a cowering traffic factotum, we need a traffic czar. Is Bob Hertzberg doing anything? I wasn’t entirely sold on Hertzberg’s Commuters’ Bill of Rights when he ran for mayor, but let’s get him out of retirement to do some honest work.

Until then, you’ll find all the best traffic solutions at www.latimes.com/bottleneck.

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Reach the columnist at steve.lopez@latimes.com and read previous columns at www.latimes.com/lopez.


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