Despite ongoing grumblings from frustrated La Cañada drivers, traffic in and around the city's Town Center area is about as good as it's going to get, according to the findings of a monthslong traffic study heard Monday by City Council.
Sri Chakravarthy, a representative from the civil engineering firm Kimley-Horn and Associates, explained to council members how a consulting team evaluated several signaled intersections along Foothill Boulevard, focusing on the road's intersection with the heavily traveled Angeles Crest Highway.
"Our objective was to really identify what deficiencies there were out there along these two corridors," Chakravarthy said. "We collected extensive data to provide us a basis for this project."
The team considered stop light wait times, traffic volume and accident occurrence, driving along the roads and timing their own travel. They determined that about 20,000 cars travel through seven signalized intersections each day, and used a traffic simulator to demonstrate flow at each turn and intersection.
Despite the congestion, which reaches one-hour peaks at 7:45 a.m. and 5 p.m., the average time it takes cars to traverse Foothill from Verdugo Boulevard to Angeles Crest is 1 to 2.5 minutes.
"The max time is 2.5 minutes…and you think we have a problem?" Councilwoman Laura Olhasso quipped at one point.
Using their research data, the engineers made a list of short- and long-term suggestions addressing common driver complaints provided by city staff. Chakravarthy acknowledged that several potential long-term solutions, if implemented, would degrade overall efficiency and inconvenience drivers in exchange for just seconds of reduced travel time.
One option, for example, involved increasing turn lane space for Foothill's eastbound drivers attempting to turn left onto Angeles Crest, but completely blocking off Chevy Chase Drive to westbound traffic. Mayor Pro-tem Don Voss took exception to the scenario of westbound trucks being forced to make tight U-turns at Cornishon Avenue.
"Proceed," Voss told the engineer, "but I've just got a lot of concerns over this."
Chakravarthy agreed on the general infeasibility of that option, and other potential long-term scenarios proposed by the study.
"The benefits we can achieve based on this measure, and basically any other measures, will not be more than a few seconds decrease in travel time," he said.
At the end of the discussion, council opted to make smaller tweaks to improve conditions — like using light deflectors on Angeles Crest Highway to prevent drivers from focusing on a distant green light instead of the red light in front of them — directing the Public Works and Traffic Commission to decide on the changes.
The traffic study was initially requested by the commission in February 2013. On July 13, the council approved the contract with Kimley-Horn not to exceed $68,872, according to traffic engineer Erik Zandvliet.
Council members agreed expenditures for traffic improvement would pretty much end there.
"We're probably not really interested in spending huge amounts of money on major changes, but there are some signal coordination and minor things that could be done to improve the flow," said Mayor Mike Davitt.
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