Two blocks of 5th Street that lost traffic lanes recently will get them back soon but upcoming construction projects will continue to cause temporary traffic spasms along the road.
The traffic patterns on 5th are the result of ongoing construction on the 1500 block and a desire by planners to keep cars out of the path of the nearby Expo line.
The construction company working on the project at 500 Broadway removed one northbound lane from 5th Street during the first week of August and then sent out a private crew to repaint the adjacent block of 5th Street, removing one of the traffic lanes and forcing traffic from three sources to merge into a single lane.
The 1500 block of 5th has two hotels, an affordable housing project and was home to Fred Segal. Target has announced plans to reoccupy the building on the western corner of 5th and Broadway while a large construction project is currently underway on the eastern corner.
The 1600 block of 5th is fed from the freeway offramp, Olympic Blvd. and traffic from two office buildings that has to make a U-turn from the southbound lanes in order to exit the street. Those office buildings house The Daily Press and a newly relocated City Attorney’s Office. The City of Santa Monica also has a gas station on the corner of 5th and Olympic for refueling city vehicles and Metro buses park along the northbound side of the street while they wait for their routes to begin.
The narrowed lanes on both blocks caused significant confusion on the street and during busy times traffic backed up onto the freeway.
The project at 500 Broadway will replace the former one-story Fred Segal building with a new development including 250 residential units and 65,000 square feet of retail space. The project will require temporary use of road lanes to reach completion.
According to City Hall, any project that requires work in, or use of, the public right-of-way must get traffic control plans that are reviewed and approved by the City in order to mitigate public impact, protect public and worker safety, and provide public access. Projects must also pay fees based on the amount of public space they use and the length of time they plan to use it.
According to the City the company does have permission to reorient traffic on 5th when necessary, such as the use of large equipment, however, the project has not reached that phase of construction yet and did not apply for the necessary permits for the expanded work in the public right of way.
“The traffic control plan for 500 Broadway includes different traffic patterns for different stages of work,” said Santa Monica spokeswoman Constance Farrell. “The installation of the construction barricade along 5th Street resulted in the removal of the northbound lane. This closure was not approved for this stage of construction; this closure was intended for other stages when work could not be accommodated effectively in another way. The City became aware of the error last week and has since been working with the developer to restore the northbound lane.”
The lanes will be restored along the 1500 and 1600 blocks of the street but could temporarily disappear again when construction does reach the appropriate phases and if the company secures the permits.
“It is common in construction projects of this scale for the developer to execute and pay for roadway changes that are a direct impact of their construction, in alignment with the approved traffic control plan per the appropriate stage of work,” said Farrell.