DOWNTOWN — Elite athletes often talk about “being in the zone,” that magical place where mind and body work in perfect harmony.

When people drive Downtown on Sunday, March 17, to check out the ASICS L.A. Marathon or do some shopping, they’ll find themselves in the zone too — the “event zone.”

Santa Monica officials said all of Downtown will be turned into an event zone, meaning drivers will be told where they can turn at nearly every intersection. Streets will be closed and access restricted as tens of thousands of people are expected to pack Ocean Avenue where the marathon’s finish line will be.

“In the past we have gone on an intersection by intersection approach, but this year we are saying from Fifth Street to Ocean Avenue and from Colorado [Avenue] to Wilshire [Boulevard] that is an event zone,” said Sam Morrissey, City Hall’s traffic engineer. “People will be either directed to available parking or shown how to get out of the event zone. There won’t really be any other options.”

Residents who live Downtown or those who work in the area or are staying at one of the hotels will be allowed special access, but everyone else is being encouraged to bike, walk or take public transit if they plan on checking out the finish line or run errands in the area. Two free bike valets will be available, one near the finish line at Washington and Ocean avenues and another at the Santa Monica Bike Center at Second Street and Colorado Avenue.

“We are trying to be real honest with residents that traffic will be heavy,” Morrissey said. “If you do come, we recommend you wait it out; don’t leave with the crush of humanity. We’re working really hard to coordinate this and hopefully control the flow of people leaving. Spend some time, stick around and have a bite to eat and then head out.”

Those who do choose to drive will find different parking rates at some of the parking structures Downtown. Morrissey said the structures will offer a special 30 minute rate of $2 for those just coming to pick up a runner. Those who park all day will be charged $20. Parking at a surface lot at Fifth Street and Arizona Avenue will be $15 all day; $10 at the Civic Center and some beach lots, where city officials are encouraging runners to park.

A major change will be the absence of street parking in the event zone. Morrissey said no metered parking will be made available.

 No thru traffic 

As in previous years, the “Stadium to the Sea” course enters Santa Monica on San Vicente Boulevard at 26th Street, then turns south at Ocean Avenue to finish at Ocean and California avenues. And with that comes several street closures for the 28th annual L.A. Marathon.

Westbound lanes of San Vicente Boulevard in Santa Monica, and all of Ocean Avenue from San Vicente to Colorado Avenue will be closed beginning at 5 a.m. the morning of the race. People will still be able to travel east on San Vicente but there will be no left turns allowed. Streets will re-open in the afternoon at the discretion of the Santa Monica Police Department, with San Vicente expected to be completely re-opened by 7 p.m. Ocean Avenue near the finish line may not re-open until 9 p.m., city officials said.

Here are some other closures to keep in mind:

• Saturday, March 16: Eastbound Wilshire Boulevard between Second Street and Ocean Avenue will be closed at 3 p.m.

• Sunday, March 17: Ocean Avenue between Washington and Wilshire will be closed at midnight. Main Street from Pico Boulevard to Colorado Avenue, and Olympic Drive from Fourth Street to Main Street will be closed at 1 a.m. for runner shuttles. Northbound and southbound traffic will be allowed on Ocean Avenue from Pico Boulevard to Colorado. The Moomat Ahiko ramp to and from Pacific Coast Highway will be open in both directions.

• Other Downtown street closures: Southbound Second Street from Wilshire to Colorado; northbound Fourth Street from Colorado to Broadway is closed to traffic in the a.m. only and will reopen at approximately noon. Colorado from Fourth to Fifth streets is closed. Westbound Wilshire at Fourth Street will be closed (local access only). Colorado from Ocean to Second Street will be closed (local access only). The California Incline will also be closed.

For live updates on street closures and re-openings throughout race day, visit www.smgov.net/lamarathon, twitter @santamonicacity, watch CityTV cable channel 16 or tune in to Santa Monica’s traffic radio station KRSM 1680AM.

This is the fourth year that Santa Monica will host the finish line for the race, and while there may be traffic delays and some frustration, the influx of spectators and runners is sure to bring plenty of business to the area and help raise Santa Monica’s profile.

“Santa Monica’s stunning Ocean Avenue and historic pier provide a beautiful finish line for the L.A. Marathon and capitalize on the health and wellness that is our brand,” said Misti Kerns, president and CEO of the Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We encourage runners and fans to plan ahead and consider transportation alternatives such as pre-race shuttles so they can stay, play and explore Santa Monica car-free.”

Over 50 businesses are offering marathon-inspired discounts and special events. To learn more about them, visit the bureau’s website at santamonica.com.

Free Downtown shuttles will be available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The shuttles will travel around Downtown and stop at a central bus hub at 11th Street between Olympic Boulevard and Colorado. All BBB routes that operate on Sundays will stop there (except for Routes 4 and 9, which will not be in service).

kevinh@smdp.com

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