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Thursday, Sep 21, 2023

Olympics May Ease Valley Traffic

The International Olympic Committee officially announced Los Angeles as the host city for the Summer Olympic Games in 2028. This will be the third time the City of Angels will host the games after hosting in 1984 and 1932. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called it a “huge win” that will “show the world the values that make us who we are as Americans and Angelenos.” Although the games are 11 years away, now is the time to begin planning and implementing a transportation system to meet the Olympic surge as well as serve the residents of Los Angeles long after the flame is extinguished. The city’s transportation infrastructure has significantly improved since the 1984 Summer Olympics, but the landscape of our community has dramatically changed over the last 30 years and will continue to do so over the next decade. To deliver a world-class experience in 2028, we must deliver world-class transportation options. The 1984 Summer Olympics were a turning point in Olympic history, as the city successfully hosted the games and realized a $225 million profit, reversing the trend of financial losses experienced by previous host cities. Traffic was predicted to be so dire that locals were warned to stay off the roads or face gridlock. However, with schedule adjustments to shipping routes, employers who implemented flexible work hours, and residents who made efforts to reduce travel over those two weeks, traffic was well managed, pleasantly surprising residents and guests who feared the worst possible L.A. congestion. The population of Los Angeles County in 1984 was just over 8 million; it is projected to approach 11 million by 2028. Tactics that worked 30 years ago will not be sufficient to assure a safe and enjoyable environment the next time we stage the Olympics. With most of the Olympic infrastructure already in place, including athlete housing, stadiums and hotels, we must be laser-focused on expanding our world-class mass-transit system to improve mobility, provide more transportation options, stimulate our local economy and create jobs before and after the games. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Measure M, a half-cent sales tax that was approved by voters last year, is projected to generate an additional $860 million a year for county transportation funding. More than $4 billion is slated for transit projects serving the San Fernando Valley, and an additional $3.4 billion in “local return” funds can be used for highway and street improvements in the Valley. The Olympics provide the opportunity to prioritize, and potentially accelerate, infrastructure developments that are needed to provide improved access to traditionally underserved areas in the San Fernando Valley and offer better connectivity to the rest of the county. The Valley will be hosting athletic competitions, including equestrian events, shooting contests and canoe slaloms in the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area. This area is served by the Metro Orange Line, slated for $286 million in upgrades, and is close to possible alignments of the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor and the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor, both Measure M projects. The Orange Line is operating at or close to capacity, and the 405 freeway carries more than 400,000 daily travelers through the Sepulveda Pass. Both are lifelines within the Valley and between the Valley and the Westside, and should be maintained to meet future demand. Beyond the Valley, L.A. residents and guests attending the games can look forward to more convenient transit connections. The Regional Connector, designed to link all the downtown rail lines, will simplify transit connections to events at the Coliseum and nearby venues. The Orange Line to Gold Line transit connection will provide a direct link between the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys, improving access to soccer matches at the Rose Bowl. The extension of the Purple Line Subway, a critical commuter link through the congested Westside, will speed residents and visitors to UCLA. The L.A. Olympics experience will also benefit from an improved airport experience as the first phase of the LAX Landside Access Modernization Program is slated to be completed in 2023, well ahead of the Games. This will include an automated people mover to efficiently move passengers within the airport complex and to connect them to the city’s expanding rail network. In the Valley, Hollywood Burbank Airport plans to replace its aging 14 gate terminal by 2022. We look forward to enhanced passenger experiences at both airports in the near future and will take pride in showcasing our modern airports to the world. Transit-oriented improvements can take the gold in the 2028 Olympics. Unlike residents in other host cities, Angelenos will continue to reap the benefits from our investment in the Olympics and our city’s infrastructure for a world-class multi-modal transportation network that spans 88 cities and unincorporated areas within the county. Art Hadnett is president of HNTB Corp.’s West Division in downtown Los Angeles and oversees 11 offices in nine states. HNTB is an architecture, engineering, planning and construction services company.

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