More Questions Than Answers

By George Wolfberg
President, Santa Monica Canyon
Civic Association

I attended an emergency meeting of the PCH Task Force this afternoon.  As you may know, the task force was created many years ago by former Assemblyperson and State Senator Sheila Kuehl to provide a forum for issues relating to the Coast Highway from the McClure Tunnel through Malibu.  I have encouraged Senator Fran Pavley to continue the committee and am pleased to say she has.

The Bluffs restoration is the first of several projects that will have an impact on the highway.  More information is available at www.pchpartners.org   The Bluffs project is fully funded with a federal grant and must be wrapped up, including after-action reports within three years.  It is currently out to bid with the City of Santa Monica hoping to award a contract by September 8, with work to begin about a month later.  The key component of the work is the installation of approximately 80 hydraugers to drain excess water from behind the bluffs to reduce the danger of future slides onto the highway.  It takes about eight hours to drill one of the 6″ cores into which 1.5″ pvc pipe with holes to drain off the water will be placed.

The problem:  Cal Trans has placed conditions on construction that wil  be limited to 4 hours per day, 9 AM to 1 PM, Monday through Thursday with no work during the Summer, Memorial Day to Labor Day.  Contractors, hungry for work that they are, have told Santa Monica that the four hour work limit just won’t cut it and it appears the bids will be few and exorbitant.  The purpose of the emergency task force meeting was to learn of the problem, options and possible solutions.

The option of doing some of the work at night is out because this was not studied in the Environmental Impact Report.  It will take about six months to prepare the revised EIR.  The project will be bumping against the upcoming California Incline project and the LA City Coastal Interceptor Sewer project that is planned to start in Fall 2010.  Most of the lane closures will take place between the Incline and Entrada Drive in the Northbound #3 lane.  The option to cordon off the lane with K-rails and work extended hours with the middle lane re-striped so a lane isn’t lost was problematic:  The Incline left turn pocket is in the way, parking lots and homes on the beach side would be off limits to left turns, and the clincher was the lack of access for emergency vehicles during peak traffic periods.

All eyes turned to the Cal Trans people and Senator Pavley’s person running the meeting summed up the best option as working from 5 or 6 in the morning until around 2 in the afternoon.  Cal Trans has some recent traffic flow numbers and will be crunching.  I think they will be flexible up to where the estimated flow exceeds lane capacity.  So, it will come down to expanded day hours, or revise the EIR to do work at night.  Cal Trans also will have to consider the impact of public outreach and extensive signage to warn people off of PCH.

Councilman Rosendahl’s deputy suggested making Entrada one way down the hill and Ocean Avenue one way toward the pier.  Not sure there was much traction, but it is out there.

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