ATWATER VILLAGE—What’s more important? Four lanes for traffic across the Glendale Boulevard-Hyperion Avenue Bridge between Silver Lake and Atwater? Or more sidewalks for pedestrians?
Due to a required seismic refitting, the bridge now has the opportunity to be re-envisioned. Already, bike paths will certainly be added.
Currently, the bridge has four total lanes for traffic and a narrow, steep sidewalk for pedestrians. But three various options are now being discussed, including reducing the lanes for cars; adding an additional sidewalk and adding bike lanes.
Last month, the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering presented three preliminary options for the $50 million proposed project.
The first option would have four lanes of traffic; one sidewalk for pedestrians; bike lanes on both sides that narrow under the Waverly Bridge; and a median, according to Deborah Weintraub, interim Los Angeles city engineer.
The second option would have three car lanes in and out of Atwater Village; a sidewalk on one side; bike lanes on both sides—
that narrow under the Waverly Bridge—a buffer zone; and a median.
Option three, like option two, would have three lanes in an out of Atwater; sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides of the bridge and and median. It is the only option with sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides of the bridge.
The project is vital to Atwater Village because the bridge is a major connector for the community, bringing in customers to local businesses, commuters, cars, bicyclists and traffic.
Some Atwater Village residents, business owners and community members say they prefer option one that keeps the four current traffic lanes. Anything else, they say, would create a headache of traffic congestion.
“We need to make the right decision,” said Sergio Lambarri chair of the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council’s Government Relations Committee.
Last fall, there was uproar from the public when the city unveiled an initial plan that lacked any bike lanes and only had a single sidewalk. Others cried foul learning traffic lanes may be reduced.
“Reducing [the bridge] down to three lanes does not make any sense to me,” the AVNC’s Lambarri said.
At a recent AVNC committee meeting, community members had a chance to speak out.
For Netty Carr, a boardmember with the Friends of Atwater Village, the only viable option is #1, keeping the four lanes of traffic.
“We are a very small community, half a mile big,” she said. “We’re kind of a cross roads community and a thoroughfare. We have a lot of traffic.”
“We have to have a balanced approach here,” she said referring to 22 different merchants on Glendale Boulevard who fear the reduction of traffic lanes would negatively impact their businesses.
As a result, the city’s Bureau of Engineering will oversee a traffic study of the bridge, according to Weintraub.
“That will help us answer what capacity for vehicles we really need on the bridge. I’m really waiting to get hard data,” Weintraub said.
The study will take two to three months to conduct.
Meanwhile, the city is waiting to hear back from the federal government for an extension request on partial funding for the project, which is due to lapse in March. If the extension is approved, Weintraub said construction would begin in early 2016.
Currently, Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, who represents the area, has not taken an official position on which option he supports.
However, he did create an advisory committee composed of representatives from Silver Lake and Atwater Village including bike advocates, community members and local officials to weigh in on the project.
What O’Farrell has said is the bridge needs to have the right balance to make it safe for bicyclists and pedestrians.
“The reality is the [bridge] is still a major commuter thoroughfare between Glendale and the city of Los Angeles,” he said. “The good news is it’s big enough to multi-modal.”
According to Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, who represents the nearby areas of Griffith Park and Los Feliz, if there were a reduction in traffic lanes, it would have a negative impact on the community.
“It’s a truck route,” LaBonge said. “What we have to do is [have] a balanced blend. If we do take out traffic lanes, it does reduce capacity and causes congestion. We already have congestion all the way to Fountain Avenue.”
When the initial plan from the city was first unveiled last fall, bike advocates weren’t pleased.
Thanks to grass roots community input from neighborhood and advocacy groups, the plan has come far since last fall, said Eric Bruins, planning and policy director at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and a committee member on the advisory committee.
“We now have all options including bike lanes and there is an open question about whether the community would prefer two sidewalks or four lanes of traffic—you can’t have it all,” Bruins said. “Now the question is what do you [have]? Sidewalks or four lanes or traffic?”
The bridge has potential to be a transformative one, which will be important to Atwater Village, by connecting the neighborhood and making it a place where people want to be, Bruins said.
“You might decide to have dinner on Rowena and have dessert in Atwater Village or vice versa,” Bruins said.