Q: What is the Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction Project?
A: The Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction Project was the City of West Hollywood's two-year roadway improvement and beautification plan for the 3-mile stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard between La Brea Avenue and Doheny Drive ? a part of historic Route 66 and one of the country's most recognizable thoroughfares. The roots of the Project can be found in the Santa Monica Boulevard Visioning Project, a series of community workshops held in 1997 and 1998 that provided residents and business owners an opportunity to share their views and help shape the future of the Boulevard. Out of the Visioning Project, the West Hollywood City Council established the 41-member Santa Monica Boulevard Advisory Steering Committee (SMBASC) in early 1998.
In November 1998, after a year-long planning process involving an extensive community visioning process, the West Hollywood City Council adopted the Santa Monica Boulevard Master Plan. The plan was a joint effort between members of the SMBASC; City staff; the architectural and urban design firm of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership (ZGF); Walkable Communities, bicycle and pedestrian safety design consultants; and Willdan Associates, construction management consultants. The cooperation of these groups established a comprehensive urban design and reconstruction plan for Santa Monica Boulevard. The historic Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction Project is the City's largest and most important public works project since its incorporation in 1984.
Q: How much did the Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction Project cost?
A: In 1999, the estimated cost of the Project was set at $32 million. Approximately $2 million in additional funding was allocated to the Project budget in June 2001 to cover unforeseen expenses. These expenses included changes due to unforeseen field conditions such as substandard traffic signal equipment not disclosed by Caltrans, changes to the Holly Hills Storm Drain Project requested by the County of Los Angeles and business mitigation efforts including the creation of temporary angled parking in some areas and suspending work at key business periods during the December holiday shopping season and the Democratic National Convention.
Q: What roadway improvements were made to Santa Monica Boulevard?
A: Specific improvements to the roadway included complete removal and replacement of the old roadbed (including removing the old Red Car tracks), curbs, gutters, and sidewalks, the re-paving of Santa Monica Boulevard with rubberized asphalt, new medians and crosswalks, widened sidewalks, bike lanes and a variety of underground utility work. The West Hollywood portion of the Holly Hills Storm Drain Project at San Vicente Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard was also a significant part of the overall Project. New street furniture such as bus benches, transit shelters, bike racks and trash cans will be installed within the next few years.
Q: What pedestrian safety improvements were implemented?
A: A variety of innovative pedestrian convenience and safety enhancements have been installed including wider, more pedestrian-friendly sidewalks; sidewalk access ramps for wheelchairs; curb extensions at intersections to shorten the distance that pedestrians must cross the street; additional crosswalks with median island refuge areas to protect pedestrians as they get half-way across the street; the reconfiguration/relocation of crosswalks in high-traffic areas to lessen pedestrian/car accidents; a new traffic signal at Martel Avenue to assist pedestrians accessing Plummer Park; and the use of cutting-edge technology such as "countdown" crosswalk signals at Fairfax Avenue to tell pedestrians how long they have to safely cross the street.
Q: What transit improvements were implemented?
A: With ridership of busses being as high as the volume of car traffic on Santa Monica Boulevard, enhancements were constructed to improve the speed and operation of public transit. Modifications to the roadway included Bus Bulbs, extended curbs for the width of the parking lane at bus stops to enable busses to board passengers in the quickest period of time, avoiding the time and hazard of busses weaving in and out of traffic. An additional advantage of Bus Bulbs is the creation of additional space at bus stops for shelters, benches and other bus patron improvements. To improve the efficiency of bus service on Santa Monica Boulevard, several bus stops were also relocated to new locations. These relocations shorten the amount of street crossing necessary at transfer points. Also, these relocations reduced the number of places where the stopped bus would impede right turning traffic. At the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Westbourne Drive a bus queue jump traffic signal has been installed to enable buses to board passengers in the intersection, and creates three new on-street public parking spaces. This is only the second location in all of Los Angeles County to operate this state-of-the-art Bus Queue Jump traffic signal.
Q: What are the major components of the Santa Monica Boulevard Project's greenspace and landscape plan?
A: Almost 1,200 new Evergreen Elm, Jacaranda, Silk Floss, Queen Palm trees and lush flowers and grasses were planted on the sidewalks and in the new median islands as part of the Project's landscaping plan. The City also created a variety of green spaces including pocket parks, landscaped areas around bus stops and areas to showcase public art. With the Veterans Memorial planned for the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Holloway Drive, the City created an additional park area. The street planting work includes installation of approximately 9,500 cubic yards of structural soil, a new landscape technology which keeps the tree roots moist and healthy while preventing long term uplift and damage to the new sidewalks. In addition, the West Hollywood City Council allocated $2 million of the Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction Project budget for greenspace acquisition.
Q: What was the Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction Project's impact on local businesses?
A: According to sales tax statistics gathered by the City's Finance Department, there were no significant decreases in the overall amount of sales tax generated from Santa Monica Boulevard businesses due to the Reconstruction Project, although a few businesses may have experienced episodic slowdowns for limited periods during the major roadway construction. In most fiscal quarters from late 1997 to mid-2001, sales tax revenues as a whole increased or remained constant. In anticipation of the beautified Santa Monica Boulevard, many new businesses such as Aaron Bros. and Whole Foods Market established themselves on the Boulevard during the Reconstruction Project. Also, many businesses, such as Gelson's supermarket underwent beautification projects of their own during the Project. The landmark La Brea Gateway to be built within the next few years on the Boulevard is expected to provide further economic revitalization to the area.
Q: How many awards did the Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction Project win?
A: The Project won a total of four prestigious awards. They include the Westside Prize of the Westside Urban Forum Awards, the American Planning Association Los Angeles Chapter Award for Planning and Implementation-Small Jurisdiction, the Los Angeles Business Council's urban beautification award and the National American Institute of Architects Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design. The State Department of Forestry and Fire Protection also praised the City for its urban forest plan pertaining to the Project. In the upcoming months, the Project will be under consideration by award committees from the American Public Works Association and the Rubber Pavements Association.