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Jams in Sepulveda tunnel targeted

Times Staff Writer

After years of talking and planning and more talking and a little arguing, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a reversible lane for the Sepulveda Boulevard tunnel near the Sepulveda Pass.

The tunnel has been a vexing problem for years because it can accommodate only three lanes of traffic, whereas the rest of Sepulveda through the Santa Monica Mountains is four lanes. Motorists trying to avoid the congested 405 Freeway between the Westside and the San Fernando Valley use Sepulveda.

Complicating matters, the three lanes in the tunnel include two that are designated for southbound traffic and just one for northbound. As a result, afternoon rush-hour traffic returning to the Valley must squeeze from two lanes to one to get through the tunnel.

The new plan seeks to remedy that by making the middle lane reversible. Two lanes in the tunnel will handle southbound traffic most of the time. Between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays, the middle lane will switch to northbound.

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The project is expected to cost $11 million and be completed in 2009. The city also plans to add a lane to southbound Sepulveda between Skirball Center Drive and Bergreen Place to help traffic flow at the chronically clogged intersection of Skirball Center and Sepulveda.

In addition, right-hand turn lanes will be added to Sepulveda where it intersects with Wilshire Boulevard.

The tunnel project has been under consideration since 2002, when the city’s transportation department began looking at the feasibility of a reversible lane for much of Sepulveda’s length over the Santa Monicas.

The study of that option -- which was eliminated because of safety issues -- and community concerns somehow added up to five years before action was taken.

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The project ultimately won the support of council members Jack Weiss and Bill Rosendahl, whose respective districts include the stretch of Sepulveda through the mountains.

“It takes five years to add a lane in Los Angeles,” said Weiss, who has pushed for the lane over the years. “It makes you shudder.”

steve.hymon@latimes.com


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