By Hector Gonzalez
April 22, 2015 -- Predictions of another “Carmageddon” triggered by Monday’s closure of the historic California Incline bridge tuned out to be greatly exaggerated, with City officials reporting lighter-than-normal traffic on the first full day of the year-long closure.
“In fact, we got some emails from some of our Public Works staff who take PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) asking us to keep the Incline closed longer, because it was actually lighter than normal yesterday, even during the peak rush hours,” Susan Cline, interim director Santa Monica’s Public Works Department, said Tuesday.
“I think people are really paying attention to the warnings we put out about the traffic,” she added.
Santa Monica is replacing the California Incline bridge, which was built as a dirt road in 1930 and extends about 1,400 feet from Ocean and California avenues at the top of the Palisades bluffs to PCH at the base of the bluffs.
The bridge portion of the incline is 750 feet long and will be replaced with a pile-supported reinforced concrete slab structure that is 52 feet wide – an increase of 5 feet, 8 inches over the existing structure, City officials said.
The work “will correct deficiencies in the bridge and make it safe for vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian use,” officials said.
According to published reports last week, some members of local neighborhood associations feared the Incline’s $20 million renovation would trigger a real “Carmageddon” -- the nickname the media gave to predicted traffic nightmares in 2011 when Caltrans shut down a 10-mile stretch of the 405 Freeway as part of a $1 billion widening project.
Those predictions never materialized as drivers either stayed home or avoided the 405.
Similarly, motorists appeared to find ways around the California Incline project, either by going south on Lincoln Boulevard to the 10 Freeway and then merging onto the northbound PCH at the McClure Tunnel, or by going past the Incline to Moomat Ahiko Way to reach Downtown Santa Monica, Cline said.
Drivers also can exit the 10 Freeway at Lincoln Boulevard for locations further to the east to avoid the incline.
Dozens of traffic monitors, including Public Works employees and private traffic officers provided by the contractor on the Incline project, were out in force Monday checking on traffic conditions around the Incline and making on-the-spot adjustments for congestion, Cline said.
“We installed cameras at different intersections to monitor traffic flow,” said Cline. “With the cameras, our traffic engineers have been able to adjust the timing on traffic signals to make traffic run more smoothly, using real-time information.”
Getting the word out early to residents and through the media in recent weeks helped raise awareness and probably helped ease congestion, Cline added.
“There’s been a lot of messaging about the project on social media and online,” she said. “I think that’s been very effective, and we’ve also had our informational meetings on Thursdays where we update residents about the progress of the project.”
Downtown Santa Monica Inc. CEO Kathleen Rawson wasn’t worried last week when asked about how the project will impact traffic in the area, predicting that “resilient” local drivers would quickly figure out how to maneuver around any congestion from the project (“Santa Monica Braces for Closure of California Incline Monday,” April 15, 2015).
Although that appeared to be the case Monday with traffic moving smoothly around the construction area, Cline said officials are gearing up for the summer months and the holidays.
That’s when officials anticipate needing even more traffic monitors and officers during peak visitor times, said Cline.