PCH Construction to Bring Long-term Traffic Troubles

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California Incline project

The first of two long-term construction projects on Pacific Coast Highway begins a week from Tuesday, with potentially major effects on traffic for motorists in Malibu, Santa Monica and all points in between.

Starting Tuesday, April 15, one southbound lane of PCH will be closed for one year along a 900-foot stretch south of Chautauqua Boulevard while workers complete a City of Los Angeles project to expand sewer capacity to handle polluted urban runoff during dry weather.

In September, the California Incline in Santa Monica will also close for one year to undergo stabilization work, and nearby Moomat Ahiko Way will undergo a brief repaving process.

April 15 sewer project

Formally called the Coastal Interceptor Relief Sewer (CIRS) project, the nearly $9 million project will see roadwork practically around the clock.

The closure will begin at The Beach Club, a private club just south of Chautauqua Boulevard, and stretch 900 feet south to the Annenberg Community Beach House.

Work will be done Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and nights from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. On Saturday, work will be performed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Work will not be done during the day Sunday.

The CIRS project will be paid for out of Proposition O funds. Prop O is a $500-million clean water bond measure passed by Los Angeles voters in 2004. Some of the money has been used to upgrade the capacity of city sewers to handle polluted urban run-off before it reaches the Santa Monica Bay. The intent is to meet water quality standards called Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) updated in 2001 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Moomat Ahiko Way project

The City of Santa Monica will replace damaged concrete sections and curbs on Moomat Ahiko Way, the difficult-to-pronounce transition road onto Ocean Boulevard from PCH located next to the McClure Tunnel in Santa Monica. Santa Monica officials anticipate that it will serve as one of the primary detour routes during the construction of the California Incline Bridge project.

Construction on the project is set for early September. During construction, motorists can access detour routes via the California Incline and the Lincoln Blvd. exit on the I-10 freeway. 

California Incline Bridge project

The California Incline Bridge project will repave the lower 600 feet of the incline, which rests on soil, and rebuild a slanted bridge that supports the remaining 800 feet of the incline. Construction is slated to begin in late September or early October following the completion of the Moomat Ahiko Way project. The project is expected to be finished in late 2015 or early 2016, according to Rick Valte, principal engineer for the City of Santa Monica.

Detour routes during construction will be Moomat Ahiko Way and the Lincoln Boulevard exit on the I-10 freeway, Valte wrote in an email.

How to beat it?

When asked whether motorists will try to detour around the construction, Carol Randall, a Malibu public safety commissioner, anticipates they will.

“If you’re going to try to avoid the construction, you’ll come down Chautauqua,” Randall said. “Or if you’re in the Palisades, you’ll come down Sunset [Boulevard]… to my way of thinking, it’s just not going to be very pretty in the Palisades [due to increased traffic from detours].”

In anticipation of detours on Chautauqua, Randall said she and others have asked Caltrans to adjust the timing of traffic lights at Chautauqua and Temescal Canyon Road to allow more time for motorists who have detoured to re-enter PCH, but have thus far received no reply.

“Right now, no one’s committing,” Randall said. “[Caltrans] probably won’t do it unless there’s a major problem and everyone starts to scream.”

Bill Wolfberg, an at-large representative of the Pacific Palisades Community Council, the governing body of the community, acknowledged that traffic on PCH will be “much worse” once the California Incline closes, joining the sewer project lane closure. But he disagreed that detouring through the Palisades would save motorists time, saying that even with the closed lane and incline PCH would still likely be faster.

“[Motorists] can try that, I wouldn’t recommend it,” Wolfberg said. “I don’t think it’ll work. There’s going to be a merge, once the merge is done, you’ll be moving right along. I honestly don’t think it’s going to be to anybody’s advantage to jam the traffic by moving on Sunset. If it were me, I would stay on the Coast Highway.”

Traffic control

Closure of one southbound (SB) lane on PCH during construction.

7-10 a.m. – Provide two northbound (NB) lanes, provide three SB lanes, prohibit left-turn ingress and egress at driveways

10 a.m.-4 p.m. – Provide two NB lanes, provide two SB lanes. Provide 10 ft. center buffer lane and openings for left-turn access to driveways.

4-7 p.m. – Provide three NB lanes, provide two SB lanes, prohibit left-turn ingress and egress at driveways.

Night work – 9 p.m. – 5 a.m., two SB lane closures on PCH.