By Eliza Partika
San Fernando Road is inching closer to a brand-new look.
The Glendale City Council was presented with results at its Aug. 29 meeting from a public survey and amendments to two construction options for the San Fernando Road Beautification & Multimodal Improvements project.
Following months of survey analysis and modifications to alternative plans, the Council unanimously voted to approve the “Alternative 2A” option, seen as the best compromise on a heavily trafficked throughway. This plan will maintain street parking but leave cyclists unprotected if traveling southbound and eliminate bicycle connectivity for northbound cyclists, according to a city study assisted by engineering and construction firm Mark Thomas. Bikers and pedestrians will be protected by “enhanced sharrows” — inverted V-shaped bicycle markings delineating a shared roadway — on the northbound side of San Fernando.
The goal of the project is to improve traffic conditions and create a safer, more pleasant experience for bikers and pedestrians as they travel through residential and commercial areas in southwest Glendale.
“I think 2A is a good compromise,” said Glendale Mayor Dan Brotman. “… I just think this roadway — it’s just too problematic. [It’s] not the right time, but maybe [it’s] something we can come back to in the future if transportation patterns evolve.”
City officials previously showcased three project alternatives at a March 23 “open house” meeting to gather feedback on the project. Alternative 1 kept the conditions of the road and tacked on beautification upgrades only. Alternative 2 included beautification improvements and adding bike lanes but reduced traffic to two lanes in each direction and removed all street parking. Alternative 3 included the beautification improvements, bike lanes and lane reduction, but would have modified parking to remove 45 spaces.
The project’s implementation will be conducted in two phases. Construction will begin parallel to the railroad, at Grandview Avenue and Elk Avenue, and the second construction phase will fall between Grandview Avenue and the Burbank city limit, at Alameda Avenue.
Council staff received $5 million in funds from the Clean California Local Grant Program for the beautification project, in addition to state and county funding through the state Gas Tax Fund and the Measure W Municipal Return Fund.
In recent weeks, advocacy groups such as Walk Bike Glendale posted to Instagram in support of the inclusion of bike lanes, while local businesses opposed parts of the plan that would have removed 147 parking spaces.
One caller and eight in-person presenters spoke in public comment about the project. The first speaker, who supported Alternative 2 and 3, cycled through San Fernando Road many times to commute to work in downtown Los Angeles. He urged the Council to choose one of those options to improve safety for traveling bikers and pedestrians.
“As I became more familiar with the roads in Glendale, I stopped using San Fernando as often, mostly due to the lack of bike lanes and angry speeding cars,” he said. “The fact is San Fernando Road is a dangerous road for all users.”
Pat Somerville, division manager for Mark Thomas, presented the findings of their most recent survey brought before the Transportation Commission, which recommended one of the alternative options for the project.
“This project is intended to beautify the public areas along San Fernando through the implementation of new raised landscaped island medians and parkway planting. It will also include multimodal improvements for all users, including bus stops with shelters where they don’t exist today, and high visibility sidewalks to improve safety,” said Somerville.
Additional bike paths are in construction, including a path along the Glendale Narrows with a bridge over Flower Street, in Phase III of construction, and a planned bridge over San Fernando and the Metrolink Corridor at Doran Street, to extend to the Verdugo Wash and connect to the Glendale Narrows path. Somerville noted that these paths will provide continuity for bikers and pedestrians.
“It opens up the opportunity for future expansion of the bike paths along the east bank of the L.A. River that would run parallel to San Fernando Road,” Somerville said.
Upgraded sidewalks will make biking and walking easier, and ensure ADA compliant curbs. Crosswalks will be updated and repaved for higher visibility, with one option to install “creative sidewalks” with bright designs.
More than half of survey responders said their main challenge along San Fernando Road was congestion, while 51% said long waits at signals was their primary challenge. Suggested improvements in the survey also aligned with traffic concerns, with 75% saying their top desired improvements were roadway and traffic improvements.
Medians are planned throughout San Fernando from Elk to Grandview Street. Left turns will remain at the cross streets at Grandview, Pelanconi, Highland, Fairmont, Doran, California, Broadway and Colorado. Space will be allotted for high-volume driveways for businesses.
The project faces construction constraints due to the high volume of traffic in both directions, estimated between 22,000 and 24,000 vehicles daily, according to Somerville.
He also highlighted the challenges of making any upgrades to sidewalks or medians within the 62-foot width of road owned by the city, before reaching the Metrolink railway. One of their biggest challenges is where to place the southbound bike lane, as the city will not be allowed to build a lane inside the railroad boundaries — a challenge Sommerville believes is solved by option 2A.
The Council also explored the idea of including a barrier between bike and traffic lanes. However, Somerville said the buffer could impact traffic and business driveways.
The engineering firm predicts raised medians would curb accidents by 25%, and newly added bike lanes could reduce bike-related accidents by as much as 35%.
“This is a long-awaited project for us to improve the condition of San Fernando Road,” said Yazdan Emrani, director of Public Works.
First published in the September 2 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.