Major PCH delays coming up

Work on the Santa Monica Palisades Bluffs and California Incline Bridge might start in 2009 and will require intermittent lane closures for 18 months on PCH. Photo courtesy of Stokes & Jones

Construction by City of Santa Monica, which might begin next winter, will impede traffic for years between McClure Tunnel and Santa Monica Canyon.

By Vicky Shere / Special to the Malibu Times

Seeking to forestall commuter outrage, Malibu city officials have arranged for a briefing on two Santa Monica projects, which will close lanes on Pacific Coast Highway for several years.

The Malibu City Council on Aug. 27 will hear from Santa Monica officials on the Santa Monica Palisades Bluffs Improvement project and reconstruction of the California Incline Bridge.

Construction will snarl traffic on Pacific Coast Highway between the McClure Tunnel and West Channel Road-crucial links between Interstate 10, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades and Malibu -beginning as early as next winter. (This follows the announcement last week that construction to install adaptive light control systems on the highway between the McClure Tunnel and Topanga Canyon will intermittently close lanes from now until October. Construction will take place Sundays through Fridays from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.)

Although the California Department of Transportation has final authority on lane closures on its state Highway 1, the projects will be managed by the City of Santa Monica.

“It’s their project on our highway,” said Caltrans spokesperson Judy Gish, referring to the Bluffs project, which will require intermittent lane closures for 18 months.

The California Incline road, connecting Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica to PCH, will be closed for 10 months, and trucks may occasionally block the northbound curb lanes to deliver material, said Santa Monica City Engineer Mark Cuneo.

Final traffic management plans on both projects will only be prepared after the Santa Monica City Council approves the Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration on the Bluffs Project and the Environmental Impact Report on the California Incline Bridge, Cuneo said.

Bluffs improvement project

The Santa Monica City Council is set to consider the Bluffs project on Aug. 14, Cuneo said. If the initial study is approved, then final plans will be developed and construction could start in late winter of 2008 or early spring 2009.

The 1.6 miles of coastal bluffs adjacent to and above PCH below the length of Palisades Park need to be drained in order to prevent slope failure, Cuneo said. In addition, the bluffs will be treated to prevent further erosion.

Traffic impacts of the project would be temporary, according to the preliminary report. Portions of the northbound lanes of the California Incline, PCH and Moomat Ahiko Way (which links PCH to Ocean Avenue) would be closed for approximately 1,000 feet at a time and would shift monthly as construction work moves alone the toe of the bluffs.

California Incline project

Reconstruction of the California Incline bridge, estimated to cost $8.4 million, could start in early 2009 when work on the Bluffs project is underway, Cuneo said.

The bridge needs to be rebuilt to meet current seismic standards and make it safe for vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian use.

As with the Bluffs project, there would be temporary lane closures along PCH approximately 1,000 feet at a time along the right-hand, northbound lane, shifting monthly as construction work progresses along the toe of the bluffs.

Last month, Mayor Jeff Jennings, who wanted to avoid past confrontations between Malibu, Santa Monica and the Caltrans when PCH lanes were closed, asked Malibu officials to weigh in on the Environmental Impact Report on the California Incline.

Stokes & Jones, the environmental consultant that prepared the report, is collating responses to the draft California Incline EIR and Santa Monica will “eventually” decide on whether to adopt the report, Cuneo said.

“There’s a way to go” before construction begins on the Incline project, he said.

City Manager Jim Thorsen had Malibu Planning Division manager CJ Amstrup prepare comments on the EIR and attend a July 18 meeting between the City of Santa Monica, Caltrans and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation on the lane closures.

The meeting sought to develop a coordinated effort of all agencies affected by the projects to minimize impacts to motorists, Caltrans spokesperson Gish said. There will be regular meetings of the group, Cuneo said.

Cuneo, who has been Santa Monica’s point person on the improvements, said the city would be hiring a public relations firm to handle inquiries.

Gish told The Malibu Times that except for the traffic signal improvement project currently underway between the McClure Tunnel and Topanga Canyon Boulevard, which is expected to be completed in October, no other construction is expected to affect PCH until the Santa Monica projects begin.