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City Council Concerned About Esplanade Traffic Flow  


By Jason Islas
Lookout Staff

February 16, 2012 -- The idea of turning Colorado Avenue into a one-way street to accommodate the arrival of the Expo Light Rail line raised the eyebrows of some City Council members Tuesday night.

Council members worried that the proposed configuration for the Colorado Esplanade from Fifth Street to Ocean Avenue would impact the traffic flow on surrounding Downtown streets. The design by PWP Landscape Architecture, and especially the unidirectional traffic flow, was met with general support by the Planning Commission two weeks earlier.

Adam Greenspan, a design partner with PWP, also said that designers want to include a sidewalk on the south side of Colorado Avenue that would, at its narrowest points, be 40 feet wide.

“I don't want to send you off thinking... that we're okay with going this direction without understanding how circulation is going to work in the Downtown area,” said Mayor Richard Bloom.

Council member Bobby Shriver agreed, asking to see more information about the impact on the surrounding streets of turning Colorado Avenue into a one-way street.

Tom Gaul, a principal with Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants, told the Council that although eastbound traffic would have to shift, likely to Broadway Avenue and to Olympic Avenue, tests show that the design would work.

Addressing another significant concern, City staff assured the council that there would continue to be bus service down Colorado Avenue.

Aside from the concerns about traffic flow and buses, the Council was generally supportive of the design.

“On the whole, I think this design looks nice and it's coming along,” said Bloom. “I very deeply respect the focus on arrival,” he said of the Esplanade's connection to the train station slated for the corner of Fifth Street and Colorado.

The design team's renderings were full of elements directing pedestrians leaving the train platform toward Downtown Santa Monica and the Pier, including tree-lined streets that draw the eye to the iconic Santa Monica Pier sign.

In response to input gathered at various community meetings, renderings of the plan included possible scenarios for unique lighting fixtures and possible public art displays.

Council member Terry O'Day called the Colorado Esplanade “one of the most interesting” projects currently underway in Santa Monica, saying that it was very challenging.

The Esplanade designs are still preliminary and many of the elements haven't yet been decided on. However, the design team is hoping to begin the design stage of the project later this year.

Peter Walker, founder of PWP Landscape Architecture, told the council that the design will ultimately create a space with “a character, a dignity and a festivity about it.”


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