The (meter) switch is on

Meter lights are now operational at all on-ramps to the Foothill (210) Freeway in Crescenta Valley and La Cañada.

On Wednesday morning, meters were being turned on along the 210 between the Golden State (I-5) Freeway and the Ventura (State Route 134) Freeway as well as along the entire 50-mile I-210 corridor from the San Bernardino county line to the I-5.

Wednesday was also the first day the meters were turned on at the La Crescenta Avenue eastbound entrance to the freeway and the activation may have caught many off guard including commuters and parents dropping their children off at Crescenta Valley High School and La Crescenta Elementary. Traffic backed up from the freeway entrance on La Crescenta Avenue in both directions, to Montrose Avenue for southbound traffic, and at times to Foothill Boulevard for those traveling northbound.

California Highway Patrol car and motorcycle officers were on hand Wednesday for normal school traffic patrol, but saw more brake lights than speeders. Caltrans had an employee at the intersection monitoring the drivers during the morning commute.

“This was the first day the meter was on [at La Crescenta Avenue],” explained Maria Raptis, Caltrans spokesperson of the new traffic situation.

The traffic congestion was unusual at that entrance but Raptis said some of the problem might be that the vehicles were not entering the freeway two at a time, which is allowed at the entrance.

All ramps that now have the new meters allow one vehicle to move per green light except for the La Crescenta Avenue entrance, which allows two vehicles per green light.

According to Caltrans, on-ramps have different timed rates depending on the location and traffic volumes and some ramps have a designated High Occupancy Vehicle, or carpool lane, which is metered separately from the single occupant on-ramp lane.

The Caltrans I-210 Congestion Relief Project began in March 2008.

“This corridor is unique because of the length and volume of traffic and long ramps, so that allowed us to put this pilot program to use,” Raptis said.

She added that she receives e-mails and calls from drivers saying they do not see the need for the meters in their area because of low traffic flow, but the meters are a connecting system for the entire corridor. The meters are part of a bigger project that is designed to relieve congestion. The new meters are designed to read each other and to adjust to the traffic flow including compensating for any accidents that may affect drive time, Raptis said.

Normal operating hours for the meters for eastbound traffic are from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and for westbound traffic from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., weekdays only.


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