HomeCity NewsGlendale City Council Delays La Crescenta Avenue Project

Glendale City Council Delays La Crescenta Avenue Project

The Glendale City Council’s discussion to delay the La Crescenta Avenue Rehabilitation Project — which was scheduled to begin construction in June — to allow for additional funding resulted in a conversation surrounding the project’s merit at council’s May 21 meeting.
The project, which involves removing one lane on each side of traffic along La Crescenta Avenue, installing a center two-way left turn lane and protected bicycle lanes on each side of the street, and replacing deteriorated pavement on the street, has generated mixed reactions from councilmembers and residents.
After receiving multiple construction bids for this project in March ranging from $15.4 million to $17.7 million, staff became aware of additional Measure R funding that was not previously allocated for the project, which could be provided by the Metro Board in July.
Thus, in a 3-2 vote, the council decided to reject all project bids so the city can update the project plans and specifications to ensure it complies with the new funding criteria, after which they will re-advertise the project.
City Manager Roubik Golanian expanded on this funding opportunity at the May 21 meeting.
“Because of increased costs of numerous multimodal transportation improvements embedded and integrated into this part of the project, staff has identified some additional, external Measure R funding opportunities they can apply for and will ultimately free up $3 million in funds that can be used toward other transportation projects,” Golanian said.
Although much of the conversation surrounding the project centers on the addition of bike lanes, Councilman Dan Brotman insisted that bike lanes are not the focus of the project.
“This is first and foremost a safety project. There have been 152 collisions over a 10-year period from 2010 to 2020. … It’s a dangerous roadway where people speed,” Brotman said, referencing data that shows 15% of drivers travel at over 45 mph along La Crescenta Avenue, where the speed limit is 40 mph.
At a Feb. 6 meeting in which the project was also discussed, Mayor Elen Asatryan said “this is not just bicycles versus drivers; this is about creating safe streets.”
On the contrary, Councilman Ara Najarian called the rehabilitation project a “bike lane project disguised as a safety project.”
Councilman Ardy Kassakhian echoed Brotman and Asatryan’s view.
“Unfortunately, I think that some people are trying to make the term ‘bike lane’ a political third rail of local politics and I couldn’t disagree with them more,” Kassakhian said. “This isn’t an issue about bike lanes. … This is one of the methods we can utilize that is at our disposal that our traffic engineers and transportation engineers have come up with to slow down cars.”
Sarkis Oganesyan, deputy director of public works, said the project will result in an estimated 30% reduction in collisions over a 20-year period, about 92 collisions in total, and an overall reduction in speed.
Melissa Church, a public commenter and the PTA president for Fremont Elementary, urged the council to continue with the project as is and not to delay for additional funding. Church spoke of racing and dangerous driving through the residential area and past the local elementary school, describing cars “barreling down roads where kids play.”
“It happens all day every day because La Crescenta [Avenue] is too large for the number of cars using it,” Church said.
Oganesyan reported that about 5,300 vehicles travel across the two traffic lanes in each direction, for a total of 10,600 per day, adding that one traffic lane can accommodate 6,250 vehicles. He explained that “the existing traffic volumes are half the threshold of a proposed road diet for this type of project.”
“When this road is two lanes, we, including me, are all going to be stuck behind a slow driver and we are going to be annoyed and then we are going to get over it and move on, and the entire neighborhood will be safer for pedestrians and cyclists and dogs on walks and kids on skateboards,” Church said. “A bit of inconvenience to us adults is worth this trade-off.”
Some public commenters still expressed concerns on the impact this would have on traffic, such as Rosa Aida, who said she lives along La Crescenta Avenue.
“La Crescenta Avenue is a major thoroughfare used by many daily. Reducing it from two car lanes to one will undoubtedly cause increased traffic congestion, especially during peak hours when residents commute to work or school,” Aida said. “This congestion will disrupt our daily lives and create unnecessary delays.”
Many residents shared this concern; however, Brotman held firm that traffic would not be significantly affected.
“We have traffic engineers who know what they are doing, and they have studied this corridor, studied the amount of traffic on this corridor, studied the capacity of this corridor and they are confident that this will not cause backups,” Brotman said, saying “the delays will be de minimis.”
Although Councilman Vartan Gharpetian supported the idea of delaying the project to seek out additional funding, he was skeptical about various aspects of the current plan and proposed reevaluating the project altogether.
“I’m willing to wait and see if we can get the $3 million, but meanwhile, we need to look into seeing if we can revise our project,” he said. “That’s what needs to be done.”
Some of his suggestions included adding only one bike lane on the west side of La Crescenta Avenue to allow both sides of traffic to continue having two lanes and adding dedicated left turn lanes with traffic lights along major intersections.
“I’m totally against removing traffic lanes in general,” Gharpetian said. “… You’re going to force the traffic into side streets. Residential neighborhoods are going to be affected by it.”
Ultimately, Asatryan, Brotman and Kassakhian voted to continue with the project framework as it stands.
Gharpetian, along with some public commenters, also shared concerns over how the project will affect street parking for residents. Oganesyan noted an 18% reduction in street parking “to enhance sight distance safety within current occupancy rates.”
Tanya Avakian, a public commenter who said she lives along La Crescenta Avenue, said there are not enough bike riders in the neighborhood to merit the addition of these bike lanes and the loss of parking.
“This makes the trade-off of losing a traffic lane and parking seem insufficient,” Avakian said. “The underutilized bike lanes will raise questions about the practicality and cost-effectiveness of such a very vast investment.”
To this end, Brotman pointed out that the cost of the bike lanes is a small portion — about $800,000 — of the project’s overall budget of around $15 million.
Aside from the repaving and lane alterations, other aspects of this project include removal, repair and reconstruction of damaged curbs, gutters, sidewalks, driveways and alley aprons; construction and modification of 59 curb ramps to meet Americans with Disabilities Act compliance; planting 21 new street trees; installation of four crosswalks; various traffic signal modifications and much more.
Joaquin Siques, a registered traffic engineer who lives near La Crescenta Avenue, spoke to environmental benefits of the La Crescenta Avenue Project, which will install 10 dry well and three bioretention facilities.
“The city’s inclusion of sustainable treatments such as dry wells and bioretention facilities will ensure this project not only enhances safety but also addresses the need to capture stormwater runoff in a time where water conservation is critical,” Siques said in an email to the council.
He added that the addition of a bike lane will push cars farther away from the “narrow” sidewalk, creating more safety for pedestrians.
“As a pedestrian, I am forced to walk in the street when passing another pedestrian walking in the opposite direction,” Siques said. “A bike lane provides a buffer between the sidewalk and traffic in the lane closest to the sidewalk.”
As a part of council’s direction to staff to delay the project, Kassakhian proposed temporary measures such as traffic cones to act as a “drill” for how La Crescenta Avenue’s traffic would be affected by having only one lane in each direction while the city waits to begin the project. Golanian said he and staffers would come up with a plan for implementing such measures and bring it back to the council for approval.

First published in the June 1 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

Most Popular

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=3]