It’s been about a year since the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (DOT) took the reins over MyFigueroa, a project that hopes to remake the 4-miles in and around Figueroa Street from LA Live to Exposition Park, near USC. But things are quickly wrapping up, because the $20-million Proposition 1C funds it was awarded need to be spent by 2014. On April 9, DOT hosted a community meeting in downtown LA to unveil updated designs for this crucial connective corridor, which when finished, would be the city’s first implemented complete street.
The design includes plans for a cycle track, a fully separated path from 7th Street south to 11th Street and then again from 20th Street south to Exposition Boulevard. Remaining areas will have painted, buffered bike lines, which would delineate between bike lanes and car lanes. Other elements include: bus platforms built into the sidewalk; improved LED street lighting; pedestrian-oriented signage (including ones that will inform pedestrians how long it takes to walk toward certain destinations); high-visibility crosswalks; new and repaired paving; as well as additional and removed plantings. The result is meant to be a street that “reflects the way we live now,” said Melani Smith, principal at Melendrez Design Partners. It would transform Figueroa Street into a fast-paced alternative to taking the 110 highway into a multimodal hub that would accommodate bus lanes, bike lanes, and pedestrians on its streets.
A few skeptical community members raised concerns on the design’s traffic impact, especially on 11th Street, which will be reduced to one car lane from two, but will have a buffered bike lane and possibly an extended sidewalk. Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, looked for the traffic studies and environmental study that was done in the corridor. David Somers of City Planning assured the public that traffic projects with a 20-30 year horizon were taken into consideration in the plans. Past precedents do make a strong case for MyFigueroa. Designing complete streets not only increases pedestrian safety, but also adds to commerce. When Union Square North in New York was protected from traffic, studies showed a 26 percent decrease in injuries and 49 percent decrease in commercial vacancies. When complete street extensions were implemented on 8th and 9th Avenues (again in New York), there was 35 and 58 percent decrease in injuries respectively while retail sales increased 49 percent.
Jeff Jacobberger, vice-chair of Mid-City West Community Council agreed. “Change is always unsettling,” he said. But as a cyclist and a car driver Jacobberger said MyFigueroa is something that needs to be done rather than maintaining a status quo where drivers are continually given precedence on the streets at the expense of the city’s quality of life. MyFigueroa plans have finished environmental studies and will be up for approval by the Los Angeles DOT General Manager sometime in May. Once approved, the designs will go out for bid the rest of 2013. Construction will occur throughout 2014.