Friday, August 27, 2010

CityWatchLA - Planning for Billion Dollar Project: LA City, County MIA

CityWatch, Aug 27, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 68

This past week, nine people gathered at the Metro's 405/Sepulveda Project headquarters in an effort to prepare for a meeting they did not intend to attend. If not attending a meeting requires the participation of nine engineers, consultants, and outreach coordinators from the Metro and Caltrans, one can only imagine how many people would be required in preparation for a meeting that actually took place.

The "I-405 Sepulveda Pass Improvements Project" is a 10 mile HOV lane project that includes modifications or replacement of supporting infrastructure such as 27 ramps, 3 bridges, 13 underpasses and 18 miles of sound walls. Along the way, the gravitational pull of this mega-project resulted in the already-funded Sepulveda Blvd. Reversible Lane Project getting absorbed into the 405/Sepulveda project.

The 405/Sepulveda Project is a "design and build" endeavor that involves Caltrans, the Metro, the LADOT and the County of Los Angeles. The lines of responsibility are blurred to the point of absurdity, resulting in community meetings that direct local concerns to "The Department or Authority not in attendance.

Case in point, two months ago, the Metro and Caltrans sent a team to Caltrans Headquarter to present the 405/Sepulveda project to the Caltrans District 7 Bicycle Advisory Committee, a group made up of representatives from local municipalities, advocacy organizations, consulting groups, and community councils throughout LA and Ventura Counties.

The Caltrans team was ill-prepared. Two lead members were within their second week of employment, and on the first PowerPoint slide it was evident that the audience should be giving the presentation, perhaps even building the project.

An audience of professionals might be a tough crowd but they are also an asset which makes it curious that Caltrans and the Metro never followed up, save for the meeting to prepare an exit strategy to their promise "to return with more information!"

Even more importantly, where was the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and the LA County Planning staff through all of this and why does it take the audience members in an outreach meeting to point out violations of law and design standards to the 405/Sepulveda engineers and outreach team?

The 405/Sepulveda project is positioned as a connectivity solution, one that will facilitate the smooth flow of people through the Sepulveda Pass. While the potential impact of a billion dollars in physical infrastructure is considerable, it is acutely evident that the real potential for connectivity is in improvements to our human infrastructure.

Now more than ever it is imperative that the City of Los Angeles take the lead on connecting the many agencies and authorities that have an impact on our streets, our neighborhoods and our quality of life.

It is completely unacceptable that Caltrans and the Metro call a meeting to address the impact of the 405/Sepulveda on the streets of LA and the LADOT fails (again) to consider it important enough to attend.

It is completely unacceptable for Caltrans and the Metro to hold a planning meeting to discuss improvements to LA County land without the participation of LA County engineers and planners.

Most of all, it is completely unacceptable that the project manager of a billion dollar project can't simply take charge and address the concerns of the public without resorting to responses such as "The Agency not in attendance is responsible for that element of the project. You'll need to talk to them."

If Los Angeles is to move forward, it will be because we connect as people first, setting a standard for connectivity that creates stronger and more efficient relationships.

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Disclosure: Box is also a candidate for 4th District Councilman.)

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