Caltrans traffic relief project causing concerns

“You go north on the Glendale [2] Freeway and you're coming along at 65 miles per hour. Then all the sudden you have to slam on your brakes, wait for the light, and then you're supposed to roll onto the Foothill [210] Freeway — it's utterly ridiculous.” That was the response of longtime La Crescenta resident Diane Bularz to the new metered traffic signal recently installed at the intersection of the Glendale [2] and Foothill [210] Freeways. The meters are expected to be activated this summer.

The meter is one of 39 traffic responsive ramp metering lights and 24 microwave vehicle detection signals recently installed at strategic locations along the Foothill [210] Freeway from North San Fernando Valley to San Bernardino County. The Route 210 Congestion Relief Project costs about $20 million — $12 million for construction costs and about $8 million for support engineering — and is paid for from Gov. Schwarzenegger's “Go California” Strategic Growth Plan.

Funds for the project were available for that specific transportation project and could not have been used for other projects, no matter how much more relevant other needs might be. It also was implemented more rapidly because funds were available and had to be used within a certain time frame, said Wahib Jreij, civil transportation engineer for the state Department of Transportation in Los Angeles.

The project is expected to improve overall traffic flow on the freeway, Jreij said. “The few minutes you spend waiting at the light are made up for by the time you'll save with better traffic flow.”

However that wasn't the consensus of Bularz and the 60 residents and CV Town Council members who packed the counseling center at Crescenta Valley High School on Thursday night, March 20. The crowd had come to hear Jreij provide information on the project during the monthly town council meeting.

Jreij offered assurances that despite the cost of the meters, and the fact that so many are now in place, many will never need to be turned on or will be left on green so vehicles aren't required to stop. The detection signals are designed to be triggered by traffic volume, or can be activated if there is an accident or other emergency that requires keeping traffic away from an area, Jreij said.

Bularz was one of many who expressed concern about the new signals at the freeway onramps at Oceanview Boulevard and at La Crescenta Avenue. “These are locations that don't warrant metering, but they had the money and had to spend it — $20 million, that's a lot of money,” Bularz said, adding that she's heard traffic has become more congested in several areas along the Foothill [210] Freeway since the metering was implemented. “I really don't think this is going to help anything,” she said.

La Crescenta resident Stuart Byles also expressed disbelief in the supposed benefits of the project.

“The idea of getting on the freeway is getting up to speed,” Byles said, adding that metering will probably cause vehicles to use more gas and also will cause bottlenecks. “It just does not make sense. I know you've got studies,” he said to Jreij, “but, personally, I hope you'll never turn [the meters] on.”

Town Council Mayor Grace Andrus said she was “disturbed that Caltrans did not bother to get input” from residents before installing the devices. “Now, you have a roomful of input,” she said, adding that if Caltrans had waited, it “would still have the money [it] wasted.”

After listening to several speakers, some projecting a plethora of wrecks before Caltrans realizes its mistake, California Highway Patrol officer Todd Workman told the crowd he wasn't too fond of the ramp metering idea at the Glendale [2] and Foothill [210] Freeways either. “I had the same concerns as you do,” he said. “But give them a chance. Watch and look out — I hope [the signals] work and you guys don't get hit.”

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