A critical facelift of the California Incline—one of the primary access points into downtown Santa Monica—was approved this week by the Santa Monica City Council.
The route connecting Ocean Avenue to Pacific Coast Highway will close in late 2013 or early 2014 for 12-18 months of demolition and construction. The looming closure is a major concern for residents locally, and those living in the Santa Monica Canyon and Pacific Palisades.
City officials plan to have construction crews work beyond the hours permitted under city code to complete the work quicker, but will not ask for around-the-clock work as proposed by neighbors to the north.
"The faster the better," canyon resident Dawn Forrester told the council Tuesday night.
With unanimous votes, the council adopted environmental reports needed for federal and state design and construction funds and approved a $2.58 million contract with Wallace, Roberts and Todd, Inc. for the projects' civil, traffic and geotechnical design.
Simply repairing the old, deteriorating bridge "is out of the question," so it will be completely rebuilt and widened by about 7 feet, said Santa Monica's Public Works Director Martin Pastucha.
Additionally, an 800-foot section of the bluff at the bottom half of the incline will be stabilized. "It’s very obvious that this 80-year-old bridge is reaching the end of its useful life," said City Engineer Lee Swain.
City staffers and Caltrans are changing course based on public input on the type of materials they will use when replacing the bridge. A cast-in-place concrete slab is the new material of choice because it will require less construction time, they said in a report to the council.
An average of 20,000 cars traverse the incline daily, so transportation officials' have come up with a plan to reroute traffic onto Moomat Ahiko Way and 10 Freeway ramps. Additionally, they will:
- Synchronize traffic signals along Ocean Avenue
- Install changeable message boards at least one month in advance to advise drivers what the detours will be
- Assign traffic officers as necessary
- Provide real-time information to online mapping companies, such as those that work with car navigations and cell phone software
- Install cameras to monitor live traffic in the Santa Monica Canyon
- Place detour signs along the 101 and 10 freeways
City staffers are asking that construction take place from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays. They estimate the extended hours would expedite construction by about 25 percent above the option of working during standard city construction hours.
Mayor Bloom promised an open dialog with Pacific Palisades residents, who have aired concerns that construction will bring traffic on Sunset Boulevard through the Palisades to a complete standstill.
Others have said the project will deter them from visiting Santa Monica entirely.
"A lot of us that live in the northern part of the city use the Incline on a daily basis," said councilman Robert Holbrook. "We're going to be stuck rearranging our lives, too."