If 'Rampture' turns out to be an unmitigated disaster, is there a Plan B?*

ramps.jpgBasically no, at least nothing the Metro folks are talking about. And it's understandable: Construction of the new-and-improved Wilshire Boulevard on and off ramps requires the demolition of what's currently in place (the first two ramps are scheduled to be closed tonight at 10 and will remain closed for roughly 90 days). You can't very well reopen a lane that's been torn down. The schedule has already been adjusted in order to avoid running into construction and lane closures on Sepulveda Boulevard. Here's what Metro spokesman Dave Sotero emailed me:

We are planning to substantially complete and open the northbound HOV lane by mid-summer 2013. It's a tremendous amount of work that must proceed full-steam at this point. Once the ramps are demolished, there will be no opportunity to provide vehicular ramp access until ramps are completely rebuilt. Motorists are encouraged to plan ahead and identify multiple alternate routes, and base their commute choice on real-time traffic conditions.

Got it. But let's put on our catastrophic thinking caps on. Suppose traffic is beyond monstrous - suppose it's way worse than anyone anticipates. What then? Metro has sidestepped the what-if stuff, other than to say that traffic officers will be on hand and street signals can be adjusted. Not very reassuring. Frankly, they're unlikely to make any schedule changes for these first two ramps. The question is how bad traffic would have to get before city and county officials begin looking at alternatives for the rest of the project? As anyone who knows the area can attest, it's well beyond terrible. At what point does it become simply unacceptable? The demolition schedule for the other six ramps has not been finalized, and Metro says it would try to be as flexible as possible. Sounds like they want to see what happens with these first closures.

*Here's more from Sotero:

What we have observed with other 405 closures is initial heavier congestion, followed by traffic normalization and less peak congestion around the closure area. How long this will take for the Wilshire ramps is uncertain due to the long-term nature of the closure and number of ramps in need of demolition/reconstruction. Future closures will range between two weeks and three months. The worst case would be the ramps aren't ready in 90 days, in which we'd just keep working to get it done. The contractor has financial incentives for expediting the work, or suffers penalties for being late.

By the way, Metro has a good rundown on what's being done, along with information on detours and ride-sharing. This video is provides a primer on what's in store.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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