HomeCommunity NewsCity to Consider Tax-Funded Traffic Project Options

City to Consider Tax-Funded Traffic Project Options

The Public Safety Commission (top from left: Member Peter Loeffler, Member Gene Ramirez, Chair Al Boegh, Vice Chair Hunter Chang, and Member Jeff Boozell) and (bottom from left) Fire Chief Mario Rueda, Chief of Police John Incontro and Parks and Public Works Director/City Engineer Michael Throne meet at City Hall, Jan. 21, 2019. Photo by Skye Hannah

The San Marino Public Safety Commission was well-attended by approximately 20 residents on Monday, Jan. 21., a vast majority of whom were in attendance to hear updates and share concerns on the proposed San Marino projects to be funded by the Measure R funding, a tax voted in by Los Angeles County voters that was dedicated exclusively to vehicle-oriented projects.

Michael Throne, San Marino Parks and Public Works director and city engineer, presented a detailed proposal for five different projects that are meant to relieve congestion and increase capacity and efficiency along major thoroughfares in San Marino. The city has been allocated $32 million in Measure R funds for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, with no local match requirement, as part of a 4-year expenditure plan. Throne noted that the funds are twice the amount that the city currently has saved in its capital improvement fund and would increase capital programming by 66 percent.

Throne called the funding for capacity improvements “very, very rare,” as state and federal governments don’t often wish to increase capacity, pushing rather for public transportation and bicycles.

“We can take their monies and design and build projects, and we’re done,” said Throne. “Again, this is very unusual for any sort of funding.”

In the initial environmental impact report for the SR-710 North study prepared for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, there were three projects proposed: preferred, alternatives, and a no-build. The preferred project was to build a tunnel under communities to connect the 710 to the 210 Freeway. With a large amount of pushback against that option by communities, the Metro board decided against the tunnel and chose to go with “transportation demand management” alternatives, according to Throne. The option to do nothing was not considered feasible.

The five proposal projects in San Marino include Huntington Drive intersection capacity improvements (at Los Robles Avenue, South Oak Knoll Avenue, Sierra Madre Boulevard and San Gabriel Boulevard) and Huntington capacity enhancements (from Virginia Road to Cambridge Road, from Del Mar Avenue to Bradbury Road, and from San Gabriel Boulevard to North Vista Street). In addition, there are proposed Sierra Madre Boulevard corridor capacity improvements (from East Del Mar Boulevard to Huntington Drive), Huntington Drive traffic signal synchronization for 11 major intersections from Garfield Avenue to Rosemead Boulevard) and seven traffic signal synchronization intersections along San Gabriel Boulevard from Colorado Boulevard to Longden Avenue.

“The intent of all projects is to keep the regional traffic on the regional streets and not bleed off onto our parallel streets,” said Throne.

Throne also noted that the storm drains that run under Huntington Drive are close to 80 years old and the city may have the opportunity to replace them under Measure R funding. Median parks, which could be affected by adjustments to Huntington Drive, could also be improved.

Several residents expressed their concerns that lanes would be added to Huntington Drive, possibly affecting the diagonal parking and adding to congestion with more traffic. Commission Chair Al Boegh asked Throne if there were any specific proposals to change parking spots or to add specific lanes.

Throne responded that it’s up to the city to decide how to deal with the chokepoints that require capacity enhancements along Huntington Drive, whether that’s to squeeze an additional lane in the existing placement or to bubble the street slightly. San Marino will have a great amount of flexibility in proposing ideas that are in line with the five proposed projects. The city also plans to take in public feedback as well as work with the schools in order to alleviate congestion that builds up at the start and end of school days.

“There is no written mandate from Metro that ‘you shall from here to here do this specific sort of improvement,’” said Throne. “They’re leaving it up to the communities to delve into what the project scope is going to be in order to achieve that bigger goal.”

Resident Stephanie Johnson, a longtime public safety advocate in the city, shared concerns that in the city’s zeal to build projects to increase capacity along Huntington Drive, more traffic may be diverted during commute times to residential streets.

“My recommendation that I just urge you is to really take a defensive view of this project, because the project really is not what we want,” Johnson told the commission. “We would like it all to just go away. It’s not going to go away, but we need to be prepared for the onslaught. And I think in reading the past history over the past 40 years, San Marino has not been prepared for the onslaught.”

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