BY ARIEL CARMONA JR.
Diamond Bar – On their meeting April 1, the Diamond Bar City Council heard an update from City staff on a $256 million multi-phase project designed to improve the existing 57/60 freeway interchange bottleneck, and also received an update on the Grand Avenue Beautification project, estimated at more than $1 million.
According to information provided by City staff, the 2.5 mile interchange stretch where the 57 and 60 freeways meet, ranks as the third most congested in California, and seventh worst in the nation. With funding from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the City of Industry, the project will be completed in three phases based upon the results of a feasibility study completed in 2008 to evaluate fixes and improvements.
The first phase consists of construction of a $16. 6 million westbound on-ramp at Grand Avenue, estimated to start in November 2015. Phase 2A consists of a fully funded $14 million street widening improvement in the vicinity of Grand Avenue and Golden Springs Drive. Phase 2B is the construction of a $20 million westbound freeway off-ramp and an auxiliary lane to Grand Avenue. And the final phase consists of freeway mainline improvements and bypass connectors valued at more than $200 million, with an environmental impact report certified last December.
According to a presentation by City staff, because the freeways were built in the early 70s, the forced merging of the two major freeways was made necessary by the valley shaped terrain dividing the area. At present, hundreds of thousands of drivers struggle through the confluence every day struggling to deal with all the lane merging required by a design that is almost 40 years old.
The presentation also stated that the results are “unacceptable levels of congestion, accidents and air pollution. The 57/60 confluence is a vital link in Southern California’s transportation network. Every year more than 100 million commercial and private vehicles pass through, as does $375 billion worth of goods going through to the Los Angeles area. However, almost 80 percent of those goods are consumed outside of Southern California which means that the problems caused by this stretch of roadway impact not just local and regional tax payers and businesses, but also interstate commerce on a state and national level.”
According to a report made public by David Liu, Director of Public Works, the cost of missing components to the project include freeway connectors, and High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) connectors totaling more than $500 million, which are contingent on additional resources and funds. To date, staff has secured a $100,000 grant from Caltrans and other partners to fund an updated feasibility study valued between $300,000 and $400,000.
Members of the Council and City staff met with U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, and other dignitaries on March 21 to personally inspect the area and to make the federal government aware of the problem.
“We are trying to stress to the representatives across the nation, that this isn’t just a Diamond Bar problem, a San Gabriel Valley problem, or a California problem; this is a problem for the rest of the nation. The longer it (goods) gets held up here in this choke point, the longer it takes to get to its destination and the more expensive the goods will be. They understand that and hopefully the funding will come soon and we can get to work on fixing it,” said Mayor Carol Herrera.
In other matters, the Council heard a presentation regarding an update on the Grand Avenue Beautification project, which among other improvements to the City, will include streetscape enhancements to the intersections at Grand Avenue, Diamond Bar Boulevard, and Longview Drive.
On March 19, the City conducted an Open House for the community of residents and local business owners to learn more about the project. According to the presentation, a total of 53 attendees, including 40 residents, participated to provide input on the design concepts.
Residents surveyed voted for the inclusion of decorative street lights and traffic signal lights, and also requested pedestrian safety improvements at crosswalks including upgraded pedestrian crossing signage with countdown indicators and audio enhancements for the visually impaired, and more landscape improvements. Construction for the project is expected to be completed by December of this year.
During the City Manager’s report portion of the meeting, the Council heard a presentation on cyber crime by Mark Stevens from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department warning residents to be aware of the various types of cyber crime including hacking, identity theft and medical ID theft, among others.
The Council also voted 5-0 to approve a packed consent calendar which included their Treasurer’s statement from the Finance Department, and an authorization for City Manager, James DeStefano, to extend vendor services for entertainment related activities in an amount not to exceed $30,000 for the City’s 25th Birthday Party, scheduled for April 12.
The next meeting of the Diamond Bar City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, April 15, 6:30 p.m., at the AQMD/Government Center Auditorium, 21865 Copley Drive.