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LA City Council Votes To Study Removing Westside From Wilshire Bus-Only Lanes

Andrew Khouri |
February 2, 2011 | 1:29 p.m. PST

Sraff Reporter

(Creative Commons)
(Creative Commons)
The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to study, but declined to officially support, removing the Westside from controversial bus-only lanes on Wilshire Boulevard.

After a flurry of amendments, the council, in an 11-2 vote, directed Metro staff to complete an environmental study of rush hour bus-only lanes from South San Vicente Boulevard to just west of downtown, thus removing the entire Westside. A previous recommendation to "affirm support" for lanes only to the east of Beverly Hills was stripped from the final motion.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who sought to remove the Westside from the current project, told the council he wants a continuous bus-lane from the ocean to downtown, but the current fragmented nature of the lanes through the Westside will make traffic worse through the Brentwood neighborhood in his district. Rosendahl said he wants to see both Santa Monica and Beverly Hills participate in the project, repeatedly criticizing the amount of Santa Monica traffic flowing through his district.

"It is a disaster as a cluster of little segments," he said.

Councilman Richard Alarcon, who along with Councilman Tony Cardenas voted against the motion, worried that eliminating the Westside would harm Los Angeles when it seeks future federal grants.

"In 2007, we unanimously supported 8.7 miles. We applied to the federal government and said 'We want this money,' and now you want us to turn around and say 'Just kidding?'" Alarcon asked his colleagues.

Metro has said it could receive $23 million from the federal government to complete the $31.5 million project, which the agency says will speed up bus travel times and increase ridership on heavily congested Wilshire Boulevard.

The Metro board will now decide in April whether to support the project without the entire Westside, said Metro spokesman Dave Sotero.

Board members can also pick three other options, including a 7.7-mile route, which the board tentatively approved in December. That alternative includes the Westside minus a one-mile segment from Comstock to Selby avenues, where residents had raised objections. The L.A. City Council must then give its final approval on a route, Sotero said.

Other amendments approved by council members include pushing for further coordination among mayors of Santa Monica and Beverly Hills and county supervisors to install a continuous project and studying that possibility.

Echoing his previous testimony given to a January committee meeting, LADOT senior traffic engineer Kang Hu said the Westside portion still has merit.

"Even if it is segmented or fragmented, the bus benefit will still be there," he said.

Reach reporter Andrew Khouri here.



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