Traffic hub reaches the sky

Gary Moskowitz

The five-story transportation center being built in Glendale is

growing to new heights, but not without one specific growing pain

that has slowed the project about five months.

Officials expect that construction of the new Los Angeles Regional

Transportation Management Center will be completed by the first of

the year, but it will take another six months to get the facility

fully wired for computers and other equipment to be installed and for

workers to move in, officials said.

The project is about five months behind schedule, primarily

because of a shortage in steel needed for the project, officials said

this week.

The new 88,000-square-foot transportation hub is sandwiched

between the Ventura (134) and Glendale (2) freeways at 2901 W.

Broadway.

The facility will house the Caltrans Transportation Management

Center, which monitors traffic flow on Los Angeles and Ventura county

freeways, and will also house the California Highway Patrol's

dispatch services. The two are headquartered in downtown Los Angeles.

"Aside from the large amounts of concrete that was needed to lay

the foundation for this building on such a large slope, we also

needed a lot of steel for all the steel studs and rebar being placed

inside," CHP Officer Mark Firkins said. "But we have had problems

getting all the steel we need because of a steel shortage."

In March 2002, President George W. Bush announced tariffs of up to

30% on imported steel in an effort to shore up the long-declining

industry.

Underneath the building, 26 large cylindrical beams, made of a

mixture of rubber and steel, provide support and necessary

flexibility that would allow the building to move 30 inches laterally

during an earthquake, officials said.

"These rubber base isolators move like a deck of cards, up to 30

inches laterally, in the event of an earthquake," Firkins said. "This

building can withstand an earthquake with a magnitude of up to 8.0."

A 180-foot radio communications tower has been installed next to

the building and was inspected last week. Large retaining walls

between the building and the freeways are complete, Firkins said.

The center will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week to

provide up-to-the-minute traffic information for drivers.

Thousands of loop sensors buried under roadways will relay

information to the center about traffic patterns. More than 400

cameras mounted above freeways will give employees a visual picture

of road conditions.

Caltrans workers will be able to control the flow of traffic by

manipulating traffic- signal timing on freeway onramps and surface

streets that are state routes, officials said.

"In terms of wiring and facilities and what we need to run a

modern organization, the new facility is what we need," said Judy

Gish, a Caltrans spokeswoman. "This is about three times the size of

the facility we have now."

Once completed, more than 240 employees will work around the clock

at the center. Most will be stationed in the CHP 911 call center.

"As the population of Los Angeles County increases, this facility

will become more and more important," Firkins said. "The two

organizations will be better able to expedite our resources. We can

just walk over and talk to people we need to talk to and not have to

worry about leaving messages, and we can observe incidents better and

more effectively manage our 911 operations."

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