7th Street Bridge To Be ClosedPublished: April 1, 2011
The 7th Street Bridge portion of a freeway construction project known as the West County Connectors (WCC) project is scheduled to begin the week of April 18, and the biggest impact for the CSULB community will be the closure of that bridge for about a year. That means there will be no access to 7th Street from the 405 or 22 freeways. The university is working closely with the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) to coordinate the dissemination of information, including maps and detours, to minimize the impact of the project.
The following is a Q&A with Christina Byrne, community relations officer with OCTA, and Mark Rudometkin, general manager of parking and transportation at CSULB, about the project and its impact on campus.
Why does this need to be done and what will the benefits be?
Right now where the 22, 405 and 605 freeways meet, there is quite a merging issue that can be dangerous. So this will separate the car pool lanes. There will be car pool connectors that create seamless transition between the freeways. This will eliminate car pool lane users weaving across lanes to switch to and from the car pool lanes between the freeways. Also, Valley View Bridge and Seal Beach Bridge will be reconstructed to bring them up to standards and also lengthened to accommodate the new car pool lanes. Seal Beach Bridge is also being widened to address congestion there. Finally, we are constructing sound walls, which is a very big concern to the community.
Do you expect delays in the project?
The contractor has incentive to get the job done on time and penalties are in place it they do not construct the bridge in one year.
Why will it take a year?
Based on the design, we feel that a year is an appropriate time frame to reconstruct the 7th Street Connection. We could not construct one half at a time because with the 7th Street Connection is not logistically possible. That’s why it needs to be completely closed and reconstructed from the ground up. Other solutions like a temporary bridge were cost prohibitive.
What alternate routes are you suggesting for the CSULB community?
We suggest people commuting to Cal State Long Beach remain on 405 and exit on Palo Verde or Bellflower and proceed south to campus. The city of Long Beach is going to be synchronizing lights on Palo Verde, Studebaker and Bellflower to assist with the extra traffic. People exiting campus will not be greatly impacted by the project. Also, they can go to our website for maps and other information at www.octa.net/westcounty.
What has OCTA been doing to prepare for this?
OCTA and Caltrans have been working with all the impacted communities as well as major stakeholders like Cal State Long Beach and the VA Hospital. We have conducted a series of public outreach meetings and have worked with local officials to get the word out about this.
What impact will this have on the campus?
Initial impact will be difficult. It will create backups on surface streets, specifically on Bellflower, Palo Verde and Studebaker. Until folks figure out adjustments in their drive time, and maybe give themselves an extra 20 or 30 minutes and until they figure out what route works best for them it will be difficult. That extra 20 or 30 minutes may be high, but better safe than sorry. In my experience with these things the first couple weeks will be the worst, but once they get on campus traffic should flow pretty well.
What are we doing to mitigate this?
We will be monitoring campus flow and making adjustments, whether it’s manually signaling traffic or whatever it takes to mitigate as well as we can any negative effects on campus. We will talk with OCTA to express any concerns we have as we go along. I know that our neighbors will be watching it as well as city council members and others. It could be worse than anticipated or better. We are planning for the worst and for the hoping for the best.
Is this the biggest such impact on the campus you have seen?
Not that I haven’t been involved in a lot of construction, but yes, for me personally this is the biggest inconvenience I have seen for a campus. These kinds of construction project can create a lot of chaos because it takes people out of their comfort zone.
What advice do you have for the campus community?
First and foremost, just be patient. Don’t be reluctant to ask questions. That’s what we’re here for and stay updated on the OCTA website. Finally, experiment with what new route works best for them, but patience is going to be important, especially in the first two weeks.