Plan to widen Sunset Boulevard in Brentwood is halted
Los Angeles city traffic officials have abruptly dropped a plan to widen congested Sunset Boulevard in Brentwood after the proposal generated widespread community outcry.
The controversy underscores the challenges traffic planners face in attempting to improve traffic flow -- even in notoriously clogged areas such as the Westside. City officials say this stretch of Sunset is one of the most congested in the region.
The Los Angeles Department of Transportation last month proposed adding one eastbound lane on Sunset, from Barrington Avenue to Gunston Drive, about a 0.4-mile stretch. Officials had asked the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to fund about $4 million of the project’s estimated $6.1-million price tag.
The DOT shelved the project at the request of Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes Brentwood. Rosendahl said he initially supported the department’s funding application because he believed the money would not be restricted to a specific road proposal. But Rosendahl said he learned the money would be limited to widening Sunset Boulevard, a proposal to which there was “tremendous opposition.”
Hundreds of residents contacted Rosendahl, questioning whether adding a lane would effectively ease traffic congestion. They also said the proposal was not properly vetted, and that widening Sunset violated existing community plans to preserve the scenic highway.
“I am open to suggestions for what to do with Sunset,” Rosendahl said. “Nobody has a magic bullet at this point.”
This is at least the second time in recent years that L.A. has tried to widen this stretch of Sunset.
Michael Hunt, an LADOT transportation engineer, said he was surprised by the community’s disapproval of the project. Because widening Sunset was originally supported by some members of the Brentwood Homeowners Assn., Hunt said he believed the overall community favored the plan.
The homeowners association, along with the Bel-Air Assn., in 2004 commissioned traffic consulting firm Linscott Law and Greenspan to conduct a study of congestion on Sunset Boulevard. One of the study’s conclusions was that an additional eastbound lane on the road could ease gridlock.
Hunt said the proposed lane would decrease delay time by an estimated 39% in the morning and 50% in the evening in the 0.4-mile zone. The time estimates were based on pending changes to the 405 Freeway, including a reconfigured Sunset Boulevard overpass and on and off ramps. Construction for the Sunset project would have begun after the 405 Freeway changes were complete, Hunt said.
But many Westside residents said the cause of congestion is the 405, not Sunset.
“We could put 18 lanes on Sunset Boulevard, but if cars can’t get on the 405, there’s still going to be a backup,” said David Heldman, whose Brentwood Glen home is adjacent to the Sunset overpass.