Santa Monica Lookout
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Santa Monica Braces for Closures of California Incline Monday

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

April 15, 2015 -- With less than a week to go, motorists – along with local government officials – are bracing for the year-long closure Monday of Santa Monica’s storied California Incline.

The $20 million federally-funded project will make the bridge that connects Ocean Avenue to Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) safer but also send an estimated 15,000 motorists a day looking for alternate routes.

After decades of debate and delays, the joint project with the California Department of Transportation will demolish and replace the 85-year-old incline with a new ramp that includes a bike path and widened sidewalks. It also will upgrade the bridge to meet current earthquake-safety codes.

Already known for its car-clogged streets, Santa Monica officials have come up with routes to help mitigate the impact on a Downtown area where streets already are being torn up and replaced to make way for the Expo Light  Rail line.

Kathleen Rawson, president and CEO of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM), said she is not overly concerned about the overall impact on Downtown businesses, which include more than 400 retail and restaurant outlets and employ about 29,000 people.

Santa Monica’s shoppers, she said, “are more resilient” and likely won’t allow the added congestion to keep them from “a very solid Downtown.”

They are also “road warriors” who will “navigate around the roads that need navigating around.”

Meanwhile, the City of Santa Monica’s project hotline has been receiving three or four calls a day for the last few weeks, which is more than usual for such a hotline, but does not indicate a sense of panic, said Curtis Castle, a civil engineer for the City.

Although most of the callers express concern about existing traffic, they call mostly because they “are getting informed,” he said. “They’re interested.”

Officials are telling motorists who normally take the Incline to go north on Pacific Coast Highway to instead go south on Lincoln Boulevard to the 10 Freeway and then merge onto the northbound PCH at the McClure Tunnel.

Those heading south on PCH are advised to go past the Incline to Moomat Ahiko Way to reach Downtown Santa Monica or to exit the 10 Freeway at Lincoln Boulevard for locations further to the east.

Officials are asking drivers to avoid using the canyons as alternate routes. “We trying to get the impact to stay in Santa Monica and not be directed out of town,” Castle said.

Castle also noted that traffic should flow more quickly along PCH, since the traffic signal at the bottom of the Incline will be green for longer periods of time.

The new bridge will consist of a pile-supported reinforced concrete slab structure that is 52-feet – an increase of 5-feet 8-inches over the existing structure, City and Caltrans officials said.

The work “will correct deficiencies in the bridge and make it safe for vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian use,” officials said.

The plan in place calls for using traffic sensors and “dynamic message boards” to monitor real-time traffic conditions and provide real-time travel information, continue to emphasize detour routes and provide as-needed traffic control devices and on-call support staff to address congestion issues as they arise.

Built in 1930 to replace a dirt road, the incline extends about 1,400 feet from the intersection of Ocean and California Avenues at the top of the Palisades bluffs to PCH at the base the of the bluff. The bridge portion of the incline is 750 feet long.

Rawson said whatever the impact of the temporary closure of the Incline, she is relieved that the work is finally being done.

“The road needs to be fixed,” she said.

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