City officials are exploring expediting a realignment of Interstate 10 that would change how vehicles are brought onto Fourth Street.
The new exit would bring traffic over freeway and tie into the recently-built Olympic Drive. If completed, the exit and entrance to Interstate 10 would be adjacent, rather than separated by the freeway.
City officials told council at their last meeting that the plan, referred to as the Olympic crossover, freeway flyover, or freeway realignment, has been discussed briefly with Caltrans, the state agency in charge of the freeways, but is still in its early phases.
The crossover is included in the draft of the Downtown Specific Plan, which, once approved, will provide a framework for land-use Downtown.
The plan would include the removal of the current Fourth Street off-ramp — eliminating the associated traffic light.
Councilmember Terry O’Day asked city officials what it would take to make the project go faster.
“I think realignment of the off-ramps is a critical piece of this plan,” he said, as council reviewed plans for a transit hub near the terminus of the incoming Expo Light Rail. “And Caltrans’ participation in this would dictate much of the timelines for any work that we would do, and if we could hear back from staff how to prioritize that work, and how to fund or accelerate it so that we know just where we stand on planning out this property.”
Councilmember Ted Winterer also expressed interest in the project.
Discussion of the item was cut short when City Attorney Marsha Moutrie warned the council members that the discussion was in danger of veering away from the agendized item. The Council can only discuss items specifically listed on their official agenda and the agenda must be released 72 hours prior to a regular meeting.
Planning Director David Martin told council that the consultants they’d agreed to fund during the meeting would be considering the realignment of the off-ramp.
Scott Schonfeld, who owns a building next to the freeway (where the Daily Press offices are located) has been an advocate of the re-alignment and asked for expediency during the public input portion of the meeting.
“I’m concerned that the timing of the long-term planning here will really push out the commencement of that feasibility study until after the (Downtown Specific Plan) is adopted,” he said. “This seems like a very sequential planning process when in fact this site requires significant coordination with other agencies and stakeholders like our group, like Caltrans, and really would like to see more of a coordinated planning effort similar to what seems to be happening now at Bergamot.”
Schonfeld has said in the past that the project would cost tens of millions of dollars but could be financed if Caltrans were willing to give City Hall the land where the current Fourth Street exit is located. This, he said, is at least an acre of land that could be developed.
In 2013, when Schonfeld presented positive results of traffic and feasibility studies to Downtown Santa Monica Inc., a public-private nonprofit that helps manage and market Downtown for City Hall, traffic planners were generally enthusiastic but expressed concern about the pedestrian usage near the traffic light at Fourth and Olympic, especially given its proximity to Santa Monica High School.
When asked about timing city planner Sarah Lejeune told O’Day that they were looking at integration with the Downtown Specific Plan, which is still being ironed out.
This year, construction starts on the Colorado Esplanade and the California Incline, resulting in months of significant thoroughfare closures. City officials are also studying a one-way street network Downtown.